Juvenile Law Criminal Defense

When teenagers younger than 18 years of age commit acts that would be crimes if committed by an adult, they are charged with juvenile delinquency. Their cases are heard in juvenile and domestic relations district courts located in York County and other communities and cities throughout Virginia. The courts have the power to place children in a juvenile detention facility and make other decisions that that could affect a child’s future. The attorneys at Riley Law, PLLC apply their knowledge of both the criminal and juvenile laws to ensure the interests of the children they represent are protected.

Differences Between Juvenile Cases and Adult Criminal Charges

The most noticeable difference between the juvenile system and the adult criminal justice system is the ultimate purpose of each of them. The primary purpose of the juvenile courts is to rehabilitate offenders and restore them to a normal way of life. In contrast, the adult system focuses on punishment and deterrence. Other key differences in the treatment of adults who commit crimes and juvenile offenders include:

  • Juvenile court intake officers have authority to divert cases from the court system to other government or community agencies.
  • Trials in adult courts are replaced by adjudicatory hearings in juvenile cases.
  • Juveniles who are not charged as adults do not have same right to a jury trial as do adults.
  • Records of juvenile proceedings are destroyed when the individual was convicted of a non-felony after the child reaches 19 years of age as long as it has been at least five years since the last hearing in court. Records of juvenile traffic cases are destroyed when the child is 29 years old. Adults convicted in criminal court have a much more difficult time removing records under commonwealth laws.
  • Criminal court proceedings are open to the public, but juveniles with misdemeanors are entitled to a closed hearing and confidentiality of records if they are younger than 14 years of age.

Another difference between the criminal courts and juvenile courts is in the charges. An adult who is caught breaking into a home to steal money and other valuables would be charged with the crime of burglary. Someone under 18 years of age committing the same act would be charged in a petition with being a juvenile delinquent unless the case is referred to the adult court.

Disposition of Cases in Delinquency Cases

If the allegations contained in a delinquency petition are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the cases proceeds to the disposition stage. Disposition is the juvenile court equivalent of sentencing in the adult court. Options available to a judge for a juvenile case disposition include:

  • Probation supervision
  • Counseling for the child and his or her parents
  • Restitution paid to victims

Unlike probation in the adult courts, a juvenile placed on probation can be released from supervision if he or she demonstrates compliance with the conditions of probation imposed by the court. Even though the individual is supervised by a probation officer, the court continues to monitor the case.

Charging Juveniles as Adults

Juvenile offenders who are 14 years of age or older can have their cases transferred to the circuit court if the underlying act they committed is a felony. If the case is transferred, the child would be tried as an adult.

Before a case can be transferred or certified to the circuit court, the juvenile is entitled to a hearing. A judge must determine that probable cause exists to believe the child committed the crime and whether transferring the case and treating the child as an adult is appropriate. Factors judges take into consideration in deciding whether transfer is appropriate include:

  • Child’s prior court record
  • Competency of the child
  • Child’s school record
  • Age of the child
  • Child’s emotional maturity

If the juvenile committed a violent felony, the court must find there is probable cause to believe the child committed the crime in order to transfer the case to the circuit court. Representation by a skilled and compassionate defense attorney is essential to protect the rights of a child during transfer hearings.

Getting Help From Skilled Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys

Proceedings in juvenile and domestic relations courts in counties such as James City and Gloucester require representation by attorneys with knowledge of the juvenile laws and experience handling cases in this specialized court. The dedicated defense attorneys at Riley Law, PLLC are skilled advocates who know how to get results. Contact them today at 757-251-3888 to schedule a consultation.

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