Juvenile Crime

Juvenile crimes can have serious implications on a child’s future, and can put a child in jail or probation. The juvenile court process could cripple your family financially and psychologically. The juvenile court system is different from the adult justice system, so understanding the process is the first step in preventing the effects of juvenile crime. 

What is a Juvenile Crime?

A juvenile crime in the state of Texas is when a “juvenile” between the ages of 10 and 17 years old commits a crime.

In this circumstance, the offender will be tried as a juvenile in court, which can affect the penalties for crimes and the trial itself.

What does being tried as a juvenile mean?

There are many differences between adult and juvenile trials. One of the most important aspects of being tried as a child is the sentencing. Adults are prosecuted for “committing crimes” whereas juveniles are prosecuted for “delinquent acts.” This is purposefully done to avoid mass incarceration of minors and to promote rehabilitation over punishment. To avoid imprisoning minors, the juvenile justice system has many alternative punishments in place including probation, diversionary programs, and parole.

Along with the penalties, the trial itself is unique. In adult trials, there is a public trial with a jury that decides the guilt of offenders in court. Whereas for juvenile crimes, children are given an “adjudication hearing.” In these hearings, the defense provides evidence for a charge to a judge. After hearing and pondering evidence, a judge determines whether the juvenile is delinquent or not, and determines penalties for the crime.

Which crimes are tried in the juvenile court?

In Juvenile Court, there are two types of offenses that are tried:

CINS – “Conduct Indicating Need for Suspension” is considered the less serious crime committed by juveniles which are non-criminal. This offense can also be referred to as a “Status Offense” as it is based on the offender’s status as a minor.

According to the Juvenile Justice Handbook, CINS include:

  • any fineable offense;
  • running away;
  • inhalant abuse;
  • expulsion for violation of a district’s student code of conduct;
  • prostitution; and
  • (§51.03(b), F.C.)

If a juvenile court finds that a child has committed a CINS violation, it may place the youth on varying levels of probation, but it cannot sentence the offender to TJJD (§54.04(o)(1), F.C.).

Delinquent Conduct – This type of offense is more serious and involves illegal conduct as a juvenile.

According to the Juvenile Justice Handbook, delinquent conduct includes:

  • Commission of any felony offense or jail-able misdemeanor;
  • Violation of a lawful court order under circumstances that would constitute contempt of that court in:
    • a justice or municipal court;
    • a county court for conduct punishable by fine only; or
    • a truancy court.
  • Commission of driving, flying or boating while intoxicated, intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter; or
  • A third (or subsequent) offense of driving under the influence of alcohol, which requires only a detectable amount of alcohol in a minor’s system. (§51.03(a), F.C.).

If a court finds that a child has engaged in delinquent conduct, it may place the child on varying levels of probation, depending on the seriousness of the offense, or commit the offender to TJJD (§54.04, F.C.).

Can a juvenile be tried as an adult?

Courts that handle adult cases typically do not try cases in which an individual committed a crime before the age of 17. Yet, there are serious cases including but not limited to, capital murder, aggravated controlled substance or first degree felony, in which Texas law allows for the transfer to an adult trial.

In order to transfer a juvenile to adult court, there must be a “transfer hearing.” This hearing judges whether a juvenile can be transferred to adult court. Before the hearing, the juvenile court must order and obtain a complete diagnostic study, social evaluation and full investigation of the child, the child’s circumstances and the circumstances of the offense.

There are many things considered when moving a juvenile to adult court. According to the Juvenile Justice Handbook, some factors include:

  • The sophistication and maturity of the child;
  • The previous record of the child;
  • The continuing danger the child poses to the public;
  • The likelihood of the child’s rehabilitation with the resources available to the juvenile court;
  • Probable cause for committing the offense;
  • Whether the offense was against person or property; and
  • Whether the nature of offense or child’s background supports the necessity for an adult trial transfer.

If the juvenile court transfers the case to the adult criminal court, the prosecuting attorney must still seek an indictment against the offender from a Grand Jury. If the Grand Jury does not return an indictment, the case must be dismissed and the case may not be remanded, or returned, to the juvenile court.

Are there parental/guardian responsibilities for penalties?

As juvenile crimes are charged toward minors, the State of Texas has placed some responsibility on the parents of the juvenile to assist in the rehabilitation of the child.

According to the Juvenile Justice Handbook, a court may order a parent to:

  • Pay probation fees;
  • Make restitution;
  • Pay graffiti eradication fees;
  • Perform community service;
  • Pay court costs;
  • Refrain from doing any act injurious to the welfare of the child;
  • Prevent contact between the person and the child;
  • Participate in counseling if the person lives in the same household with the child;
  • Pay reasonable attorney’s fees for representing the child;
  • Reimburse the county for payments made to a court-appointed attorney for the child;
  • Pay deferred prosecution supervision fees;
  • Attend a court hearing;
  • Act (or refrain from acting) to aid the child in complying with conditions of release from detention; or
  • Pay fees or costs of educational programs as ordered (§61.002(a), F.C.).

Before a judge can enter an order against a parent or guardian, the court must provide:

  • Sufficient notice, in writing or orally in a recorded court hearing, of a proposed order; and
  • Sufficient opportunity to be heard on the matter (§61.003(a), F.C.).

What if a parent or guardian does not obey the court order?

According to the Juvenile Justice Handbook, if a parent fails to obey an order of the juvenile court, a written motion for enforcement may be filed, which must:

  • Identify the violation;
  • Specify how the parent failed to comply with the order;
  • State the relief requested; and
  • Contain the signature of the party filing the motion.

If a juvenile court judge finds a parent in contempt, the court may commit the person to the county jail for up to six months or impose a fine not to exceed $500, or both.

Can I expunge my juvenile court record?

Texas law allows some juvenile convictions to be sealed after a waiting period. If you were arrested, taken into custody or arrested between the ages of 10 and 17, you must wait until 21 to seal the crime off your record. The more serious the crime, the longer the waiting period to seal. Although most can be sealed, aggravated assault and sex offenses cannot be sealed from your record.

What can Gary Tabakman do to defend me?

Gary Tabakman is an award-winning lawyer that has defended countless juvenile clients and believes in the right to a fair trial. Mr. Tabakman knows the law and will fight to give you the best possible defense. To better understand your personal situation call Mr. Tabakman at 713-331-9457 today to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.