What You Need to Know About Juvenile Crimes in Texas

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The law recognizes that juveniles – just like adults – are capable of committing crimes. The law also, however, recognizes that juveniles are not adults, cannot be held to the same legal standards as adults, and are entitled to certain protections that offending adults are not.

As a result, the State of Texas has a separate criminal process for those who range in age from 10 to 17 and are accused of committing criminal acts. If your child is facing a criminal charge, their future can hang in the balance, and you shouldn’t wait to seek the skilled legal guidance of an experienced Round Rock juvenile crime attorney.

The Differences between the Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems

In Texas, the juvenile criminal justice system is distinct from the adult criminal justice system in many ways. The dividing line between the two, however, is not as robust as you may imagine, and keeping your child out of the adult system should remain a top priority.

Texas defines juveniles – for the purposes of the juvenile criminal justice system – as anyone from the age of 10 to 17. If the defendant has reached the age of 17, they can be tried as an adult in Texas, which is one of only three states to routinely treat teenagers this young as adults.

At this stage, Texas goes as far as cutting the teenager’s parents out of the court process and exposing the child to confinement with adults.

Rehabilitation Rather than Punishment

Instead of focusing on punishment the way the adult system does, the juvenile system’s focus is on rehabilitation that addresses all the following:

  • Providing treatment

  • Providing training

  • Emphasizing the accountability and responsibility of both parent and child

These are balanced with the need to protect the public. The State of Texas also takes the fact that juveniles have much less understanding of how the criminal justice system works into careful consideration.

The most important point to make at this juncture is that while the criminal justice systems for juveniles and adults are separate and distinct, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will face an easier path forward – and with their entire future ahead of them, they have a lot more to lose. Working closely with a juvenile criminal defense attorney is always the best policy.

Delinquent Acts

Adult offenders in the State of Texas are accused of committing crimes. Juveniles, on the other hand, are accused of committing delinquent acts.

Processes

A police officer can take a juvenile into custody if they have probable cause to believe that any of the following apply:

  • The juvenile committed a crime.

  • The juvenile engaged in delinquent conduct.

  • The juvenile engaged in conduct that indicates a need for supervision.

  • The juvenile violated a court-ordered condition of probation.

While an officer needs a warrant to arrest an adult, this isn’t the case in the juvenile criminal system. When it comes to a juvenile, however, the officer can choose to obtain what is called a directive to apprehend – which is similar to an adult arrest warrant and may be necessary in order to apprehend a juvenile in another state.

When a juvenile is taken into custody, they must be delivered directly to the juvenile processing office without unnecessary delay, and their parent or guardian must be notified regarding both the following:

  • That their child is in custody

  • The reasons that their child is in custody

Within a limited amount of time after being taken into custody, the juvenile must receive what is called a detention hearing, at which it will be determined whether or not they should be released or detained until their pending court hearing.

Whether or not your child is detained or not is left to the discretion of the court. And unlike adult criminal charges, there is no bail system involved. Both you and your child should receive reasonable notice of the hearing, and your child has the right to counsel.

Generally, a juvenile must be released from detention pending their court date unless one of the following applies:

  • The juvenile is considered likely to abscond from or to be removed from the court’s jurisdiction.

  • The juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian is not providing them with suitable supervision, care, or protection.

  • The juvenile has no parent, guardian, or custodian to ensure they return to court as required.

  • The juvenile has been deemed delinquent in the past or has been convicted of an offense that is punishable by a jail or prison term in the past and is likely to re-offend.

  • The juvenile presents a danger to themself or may threaten the public’s safety if released.

Common Juvenile Crimes

When it comes to the crimes that juveniles commit most frequently, they break down into several basic categories.

Juvenile Status Offenses

Juvenile status offenses are generally only classified as crimes because of the age of the accused. For example, while adults generally don’t have curfews, juveniles sometimes do. It’s worth noting here, however, that Round Rock recently repealed its youth curfew. Other juvenile status offenses include the following:

  • Underage possession or consumption of alcohol

  • Underage possession or use of tobacco

  • Truancy from school, which refers to unexcused absences from school

  • Running away from home, which may or may not be classified as a juvenile status offense – depending upon the circumstances involved

  • Ungovernability, which refers to being beyond the control of one’s parents, guardian, or custodian

Juvenile courts generally consider status offenses like these as less serious offenses that typically require rehabilitation and social services, such as family crisis units.

Acts of Juvenile Delinquency

The activities you think of when you hear the term juvenile delinquent fall into this category. Juvenile delinquency is a common theme in movies, television, and literature, and it generally relates to having a youthful sense of mischief rather than intentionally causing any real harm. The charges, however, are serious matters and include all the following:

  • Violating traffic ordinances, such as failing to wear a seatbelt, failing to yield the right-of-way, and exceeding the speed limit

  • Engaging in disorderly conduct, such as by flashing or mooning others, by streaking, or by using foul language

  • Participating in acts of criminal nuisance, such as damaging someone else’s mailbox or by egging someone else’s home

  • Loitering near or hanging around an area that’s restricted

  • Engaging in false reporting, such as making a false bomb or shooter threats or pulling a fire alarm when it’s not required

  • Getting in trouble at school, such as by disrupting the class, cheating off of another student’s work, cheating by another means, or violating the school’s dress code

Depending upon the unique circumstances involved, including the juvenile’s record – if they have one – acts such as these can lead to what amounts to a proverbial slap on the wrist or to consequences that are considerably more serious. Every criminal charge is specific to the situation at hand and must be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.

Property Crimes

Some of the property crime charges that juveniles are most likely to face include the following:

  • Taking a family member or friend’s car out for a spin without permission

  • Shoplifting from retail stores, which can range from a Class C misdemeanor that carries a fine only for shoplifted values under $100 up to a first-degree felony for shoplifted values that exceed $300,000

  • Stealing from friends and relatives

  • Trespassing on private or vacant property or returning to a location from which the juvenile has been banned

  • Vandalizing or causing other damage to someone else’s property or to public property

  • Engaging in fraud that involves impersonating another person, which has become far easier in the age of technology and is seeing a surge in juvenile criminal cases

How the charge is handled will depend on the level of seriousness involved. For example, taking a candy bar from the corner store is a very different matter than shoplifting a costly phone or computer. The juvenile’s criminal record – if they have one – will also play a significant role.

Violent Crimes

If the crime is violent in nature, the juvenile system will not hesitate to treat it very seriously from the outset.

Harassment

Harassment refers to the misdemeanor offense of engaging in abusive behaviors that are specifically intended to harass, abuse, alarm, torment, annoy, or embarrass someone else. Harassment in this context often refers to engaging in actions, such as taunting, bullying, or insulting, that provoke violence.

Reckless Endangerment

Charges related to reckless endangerment refer to a reckless engagement in conduct that puts others in imminent danger of serious bodily harm. In the context of juvenile crimes, this generally means actions related to driving.

Weapons Possession

Weapons possession charges relate to possessing a weapon when it’s illegal to do so. While the list of weapons includes guns, it extends to brass knuckles, pepper spray, and beyond.

Simple Assault

Simple assault refers to intentionally or recklessly causing someone else to suffer bodily injury – or credibly threatening to imminently do so. Simple assault charges also apply when the accused knowingly or intentionally comes into physical contact with the other person who offends or provokes them.

Serious Violent Crimes

When the juvenile criminal case in question involves a very serious violent crime, such as aggravated assault, robbery, forcible rape, or murder – and in some instances, crimes from prior categories – the juvenile offender can be subject to adult prosecution.

When a Juvenile Is Tried as an Adult in Texas

The vast majority of juveniles in Texas are charged as juveniles and are processed through the juvenile justice system. There are, however, instances when juveniles are not. Texas allows juveniles to be tried as adults when the system’s prior rehabilitative efforts have proved unsuccessful or when the charge itself is violent.

A process known as certification must be employed to transfer a case from the juvenile system to the adult system.

The Certification for Transfer Process

There is no automatic certification for transfer, and the juvenile justice system in Texas can and does hear juvenile criminal cases that involve serious crimes. To transfer a case, a petition seeking a waiver of juvenile court jurisdiction from the DA must be obtained.

From here, the juvenile court must commission an investigation that sets the stage for a thorough review of the following:

  • The juvenile’s background and social circumstances

  • The nature and circumstances of the crime charged

Once the investigation is complete, it is submitted to the family court, which will proceed with an adversarial hearing. The state presents its case and evidence that the juvenile should be tried as an adult, and the defense proceeds with its case and evidence demonstrating that the juvenile court should retain jurisdiction.

The Family Court’s Determination

When it comes to the family court’s final decision, it must find that there is a substantial amount of evidence supporting the juvenile’s guilt and that the case can be heard in the adult criminal court properly. In coming to their ruling, the judge balances the following four primary factors:

  • How serious the crime in question is

  • Any prior court record the accused juvenile has

  • The accused juvenile’s overall level of maturity

  • The level of threat the accused juvenile poses to the public’s safety, including the likelihood that they will reoffend

An Experienced Round Rock Juvenile Crime Attorney Is Standing By to Help

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Round Rock for more than two decades – is a compassionate juvenile crime attorney with a proven track record for fiercely defending the rights of his juvenile clients.

Learn more by reaching out and contacting or calling us at 254-781-4222 and scheduling a free consultation today.

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