Criminal Proceedings for Texas Juveniles

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The days of “boys will be boys” are no longer a part of today’s culture when it comes to juveniles or minors committing criminal offenses. Cities, counties, and other municipalities are busy with juvenile cases, involving even the smallest of crimes. A child who breaks the law enters and is faced with a complex word of procedures, places, and requirements of the Juvenile Justice System. In fact, the policies and procedures set in place for juveniles are far more complicated than an adult. In Texas, the ages of children subject to the juvenile justice system are ages 10 to 16. While some of the specific details depend on the individual county, the basic framework of the juvenile system is the same. For very minor violations, the police may simply warn the child and parents. Typically, once an offense is committed, the juvenile probation department will review the facts of the case and determine what action is necessary. A case may be resolved through either s cautionary warning from officials, deferred prosecution, or by a formal juvenile court action. A county may file charges in the appropriate District Court. District Court charges can range from simple theft cases to more serious offenses such as assault or firearm cases. Typically, once charges are filed, the local probation office initiates an investigation. The parents will receive notice of the meeting with the probation office and also notice of the charges filed, and the date of the Court appearance. In most cases, the conference does take place prior to the initial court setting. The probation office will assess the child’s behavior, home-life, school relationships, and social relationships. Based on the conference, the probation officer will issue a “pre-disposition” report. This essentially makes recommendations as to punishment, counseling, and will be considered by the judge if and when the case is resolved. Once charges have been filed, the case is set for a “first appearance.” The child is expected to appear in court that day with his or her parents and an attorney. Texas state law requires that the child be represented by an attorney as set forth in the Texas Family Code. Bottom line, the parents must hire an attorney to represent the child. If the parents have made an honest effort to locate an attorney, the Court might allow the case to be continued, but this will not go on indefinitely. It is possible the parents may qualify for a court-appointed attorney, but most families will not qualify. In the event a family does qualify, most Courts are requiring the family to pay back the county as part of any plea bargain or agreement. So, while it may be court appointed counsel, it is not free. If you have any questions regarding criminal charges against a minor, please contact the Dallas office of the Morris Law Firm at (214)357-1782 or via email at info@themorrisfirm.net.

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