When your minor child faces criminal charges in Texas, you likely have mixed emotions. Parents may feel angry, confused and worried about their child’s future. However, you should also understand that the juvenile court focuses on rehabilitation and treatment for the issues that lead minors to commit these offenses.

Understanding the state’s juvenile justice system can help your family navigate this difficult time.

Types of juvenile charges

The juvenile court handles delinquent conduct and conduct in need of supervision for children ages 10 to 16. Conduct in need of supervision describes acts that would not be criminal or would be only minor offenses if the offender was an adult. Examples including running away from home and skipping school. Delinquent conduct describes actions that would result in jail time for an adult conviction. Juvenile court refers to conviction as adjudication.

Navigating the system

A law enforcement officer may arrest your child if he or she has reason to believe that the minor has committed a crime. The officer will transport your child to a juvenile processing office for a hold of up to six hours. Law enforcement must release your child to a parent or guardian as long as he or she has given a statement, provided fingerprints and completed required paperwork.

If your child has no prior arrests and the offense did not include weapons or violence, the court may remand him or her to a first-time offender diversion program. This program also serves former first-time offenders who completed the program successfully more than 90 days ago.

The diversion program requires voluntary community service, victim restitution, rehabilitative services, education, counseling, vocational training, community service and/or periodic reporting. Minors must complete the program requirements or will receive a referral to juvenile court.

For more serious juvenile offenses, such as weapons charges, the officer may refer your child to juvenile court. Some offenders may qualify for a six-month probationary period in lieu of detention.