Waco Juvenile Crimes Lawyer
Representing Minors In and Around Waco, Lorena, and all of McLennan County
At Milam & Fanning, PLLC, our Waco juvenile crime attorneys approach every case with the mindset that we are representing people and not merely "handling cases." In short, we try to take the term "counselor," as it is applied to attorneys, very seriously. This is especially true in our juvenile law practice. We know there are few things scarier than your child getting in criminal trouble.
Often, parents will react to their children's arrest with panic. Some will try to get the child out of detention quickly and sweep things under the proverbial rug. Others will take the opposite approach and let their child sit for a time to ponder their actions. While we certainly understand the emotions that lead to these two approaches, each taken to the extreme carries the potential of harm. So, we advocate a more measured approach.
What is a Juvenile Offense in Texas?
In Texas, juvenile offenses are criminal acts committed by minors under the age of 17 that would be considered adult crimes if they were committed by someone over the age of 17. The Texas Juvenile Justice System works to hold minors accountable for their actions while simultaneously rehabilitating them and helping them become productive members of society. Under Texas law, juveniles can be charged with misdemeanors or felonies depending on the severity of their crime.
Detention Hearing (Texas Family Code § 54.01)
If your child has been taken into custody, our first opportunity to fight for your child's rights is the detention hearing. The law provides that if your child is not released previously, the court must hold a hearing by the second working day after the child is taken into custody. If your child was detained on a Friday or Saturday, the hearing must occur on the first working day after your child is taken into custody. The sole purpose of the hearing is to determine whether the government is allowed to continue to detain your child.
At the end of the hearing, the court is required to release your child unless it finds:
- Your child is likely to flee or be taken from the court’s jurisdiction;
- Your child does not have a suitable source of supervision, care, or protection (from a parent, custodian, guardian, or other party);
- Your child does not have a suitable parent, guardian, or other person to return him or her to court when necessary;
- Your child may be a threat to him/herself or to public safety; or
- Your child has been previously found a “delinquent child” or has been previously convicted of a crime punishable by jail or prison time.
The government must notify your child and you of the time, place, and purpose of the hearing. At the hearing, your child is entitled to be represented by counsel. This makes it especially important that you quickly reach out and retain our Waco juvenile crime attorneys after your child is detained. The more time we have before the hearing, the better prepared we can be to represent your child's interests at this critical stage of the juvenile process.
Deferred Prosecution (Texas Family Code § 53.03)
In many cases, the best outcome for your child's case (particularly if the child has never been in legal trouble before) may be a type of informal probation called "deferred prosecution." In many circumstances, a deferred prosecution can be offered by the juvenile probation officer assigned to your child when first brought into custody. Our skilled attorneys can assist at this early stage in the process by negotiating with the probation officer about the prospect and terms of supervision.
Under a deferred prosecution, your child may be "advised" for up to six months regarding rehabilitation and guided through various programs or services. If your child is successful on informal probation, this can bring an end to a juvenile case without any formal prosecution taking place.
Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision (Texas Family Code § 51.03) vs. Delinquent Conduct (Texas Family Code § 51.03)
If your child is formally prosecuted, there are two basic charges on which your child can be prosecuted in a juvenile court. In either case, your child has the right to counsel and a jury trial to determine whether the child committed the offense. At the start of a trial, your child can plead "true" or "not true" to the allegations. If your child pleads "not true," then the government must prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. If the child is found to have committed the offense at a trial, a disposition hearing is then held in front of a judge or jury to determine what consequences will result for the child.
Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision (CINS) offenses include:
- Class C misdemeanors (punishable by fine only), except for traffic violations
- Running away from home
- Huffing glue or paint
- Conduct that violated school rules and resulted in expulsion
Delinquent Conduct offenses include:
- Any criminal offense that is a Class B misdemeanor or higher
- Contempt of court following an order from certain courts, including a truancy court
- Driving while intoxicated, intoxication assault, or intoxication manslaughter
- Driving under the influence of alcohol by a minor with two or more prior offenses
Disposition Hearing (Texas Family Code § 54.04)
If your child pleads true to a CINS or delinquent conduct offense, the court will hold another hearing to determine what, if any, consequences will result. Before any disposition can occur for your child, the court must find the need for rehabilitation or the protection of the public or that your child requires that disposition be made. If the court doesn't make that finding, then the court must end the case without any further consequence to your child.
If the court finds that a disposition is appropriate, the court must then decide whether your child can be provided sufficient care within your home. If the court finds adequate care, probation cannot be outside the child's home. If the court finds the home insufficient, the court may place the child on probation and in a foster home, public or private residential treatment facility, or correctional facility.
Except for severe offenders who have committed a "determinate sentence" eligible offense, probation may only last until the child turns 18, and detention may only last until the child turns 19.
Determinate Sentence (Texas Family Code § 53.045)
If your child has committed certain serious types of offenses, then he or she may be given a determinate sentence to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. A determinate sentence is a sentence for a set length of time and can last past the child becoming an adult. Under certain circumstances, the child may even be transferred to an adult correctional facility after turning 19.
The maximum length of sentence is determined by the grade of offense under the Texas Penal Code. For third-degree felony offenses, the maximum period is 10 years. For second degree felonies, it is 20 years. For a capital felony, a first-degree felony, or an aggravated controlled substance felony, the maximum sentence is 40 years.
The following offenses are eligible for determinate sentencing:
- Capital murder
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated robbery
- Injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, if punishable as a third-degree felony or higher
- Drug offenses, only if punishable as a first-degree felony or aggravated controlled substance felony
- Criminal solicitation of a capital or first-degree felony;
- Indecency with a child
- Criminal solicitation of a minor
- Criminal attempt of murder, capital murder, or aggravated felony
- Intoxication manslaughter
- Criminal conspiracy to commit any of the above-listed offenses
Certification as an Adult (Texas Family Code § 54.02)
In the most serious cases, the Government may ask the court to waive its usual jurisdiction over a child and transfer the case for prosecution in the adult criminal system. The requirements vary depending on the age of the offender at the time of the offense and at the time of the prosecution, but is possible only in cases where the child is charged with a felony offense.
To decide whether to transfer the case to an adult criminal court, the juvenile court must hold a hearing to determine:
- The nature of the offense itself, including whether it was committed against another person or property;
- The child’s level of maturity and sophistication;
- The child’s record and previous history; and
- The likelihood of the child’s rehabilitation through the juvenile justice system, taking into account the safety of the public.
If the government is seeking or may seek to certify your child as an adult, the stakes are extremely high. The juvenile system is largely focused on rehabilitation and the maximum possible punishment is 40 years, even for a capital offense. If the child is transferred to adult criminal court, the rehabilitation focus and punishment caps no longer apply.
Sealing a Child's Record in Texas
In Texas, sealing a child's criminal record is possible if they meet specific criteria. Generally speaking, a juvenile record can be sealed if the child was not charged with an offense or found delinquent in a court of law. Additionally, it is possible to have records sealed after completing a deferred prosecution agreement or completing the terms of a diversion program. After the record has been sealed, juvenile court proceedings are generally confidential and may not be disclosed unless specific conditions are met. Generally, sealing a juvenile criminal record allows the individual to move forward with their life without having their past mistakes impact them for years to come.
Contact Milam & Fanning, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation with our juvenile crimes lawyer in Waco!!
Contact Our Waco Juvenile Crimes Attorney Today
While we want to work hard for a good result, our Waco juvenile crime lawyers also work with you to ensure your child knows he or she is loved and supported through this difficult time. We understand that most kids in trouble with "juvie" are at a crossroads in life. Two very obvious paths are available to them, and choosing the correct path is essential to the whole deal. We sincerely hope that young people who hire us for juvenile representation will never have to hire us again.
We will discuss the specifics of this approach in more detail during our initial consultation with you. However, we offer the following in this space so that you can consider it immediately:
Go easy on your child. Be slow to anger. The last thing we need is for your child to have more "acceptance" inside juvie than from their loved ones outside. The reality is that nobody accepts and loves your child more than you. But trusting that a young person is scared and in trouble perceives the world around them accurately is not a suitable standard operating procedure. In short, we will be the ones to "bad cop" your child if such a thing is necessary. We ask that you wrap your arms around them.
Contact Milam & Fanning, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation with our juvenile crimes lawyer in Waco!