A defense attorney’s purpose is to represent an individual who has been accused of a crime and attempt to prove that their client is not guilty. If the case makes it impossible to maintain innocence, a criminal lawyer can work to negotiate a lighter or alternative sentence for their client.
Juvenile lawyers do the same thing for clients who are under the age of 18. It is important to note that juveniles who are accused of crimes and are over the age of 14 can be tried in either juvenile court or standard adult criminal court. Where they are tried is going to depend on the severity of the crime.
Potential Punishments for Juvenile Offenses
Many people are under the mistaken impression that juvenile court is more lenient than adult criminal court. Rather, the consequences that come from juvenile court are tailored to suit the age and maturity of younger offenders. Juvenile courts often offer rehabilitation or alternative sentencing to juvenile offenders without prior convictions, or who committed minor offenses.
An offender who is over the age of 14 and who commits a serious or violent offense can be tried as an adult in criminal court. The punishments that result from a criminal court trial are the same for a juvenile offender as they would be for an adult offender. If the offense is serious enough, such as premeditated murder, this can mean life in prison or similar punishments.
Fortunately, minors cannot face the death penalty for any offense they commit, regardless of how severe it is.
Common punishments for juveniles include:
- Informal probation
- Formal probation at home or at a camp
- Rehabilitation at a medical facility
- Time in a juvenile detention center
Time in a juvenile detention center is a worst-case scenario for juvenile defense cases. In most situations, an attorney will argue for a rehabilitative punishment rather than incarceration. Juvenile court is often amenable to this option, as young people have more time to change their attitude and behavior than adult offenders.
Why Do I Need a Juvenile Defense Attorney?
Committing a crime at a young age means the consequences can affect the rest of your child’s life. Their record may prevent them from going to college, finding a good job, obtaining safe housing, and more. Young adults who are convicted of crimes are also more likely to turn to crime again in the future, and they often get stuck in a cycle of incarceration and release.
United States law states that all people accused of a crime are entitled to an attorney. If an individual cannot afford an attorney, the state will provide them with a public defender. Though this is better than no representation at all, most public defenders are overworked and overloaded with cases. This means they have less time and attention to give to your child’s case, resulting in weaker arguments and mediocre representation. Private defenders like the attorneys you will find at My SoCal Lawyers can give each client the time and attention they deserve.
With so much at stake, it is crucial to make a strong effort to avoid serious charges for your child. A juvenile attorney is the most effective way to defend your child and offer them the opportunity for alternative sentencing, rehabilitation, and a bright future.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Go to Juvenile Court in California?
Juvenile court handles offenders between the ages of 12 and 18, in most cases. In some rare circumstances, juvenile court may also see offenders under the age of 12.
If a minor commits one of the following offenses, they may bypass juvenile court and be tried in adult criminal court:
- Murder or voluntary manslaughter
Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of offenses that may result in a child facing adult criminal court charges. Any violent offense a minor commits makes them eligible for trial in adult court.
Potential Defenses in a Juvenile Criminal Case
When you are going through the criminal defense process, especially with your child, it can be very difficult to fathom potential defense arguments your Murrieta juvenile attorney may have. However, there are many possible defenses an experienced juvenile attorney could use to help prove your child’s innocence or get a reduced sentence.
Children, especially teenagers, are very susceptible to peer pressure, and it can be strong enough to make a child do something that they would not otherwise do. This is the reality in a lot of juvenile defense cases.
If your child committed their offense with others, their attorney may argue that your child was coerced or influenced by their peers. Though this may not necessarily eliminate the charges altogether, it can result in a lesser punishment.
Capacity for Intent
If your child has a diminished mental capacity, mental illness, or other cognitive impairment, their attorney may argue that their mental state precluded them from committing the crime intentionally or with malicious intent.
Similarly, if your child is particularly young or has special circumstances, your lawyer may be able to argue that the child was unaware they were committing a crime. Though this defense is not available to most adults, it is a valid argument in the case of younger children.
Just as in adult cases, a juvenile can be falsely accused of committing a crime. Your child’s attorney may argue that your child was falsely accused and provide evidence to show that they did not commit the crime in question. Demonstrations of your child’s good character may help to support this argument.
Juvenile Defense Law and DUIs
One of the most common juvenile offenses is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). In these situations, juveniles face the same standards and consequences as adults do. The child may be liable for thousands of dollars in fines, impact panels, DUI classes, restricted driving privileges, and even time in juvenile detention or prison.
However, unlike adult cases, juvenile DUIs include any instance where a minor operates a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .01% or higher. This is much lower than the limit for drivers 21 and older, which is .08%. A .01% limit indicates that a minor will be charged with a DUI if they have any alcohol in their system at all. This applies to any driver who is under the legal drinking age.
Juveniles who are charged with a DUI may face additional charges for underage drinking. DUI charges fall under juvenile court jurisdiction in California, meaning your child will likely not be tried in adult court for a standard DUI. However, if the DUI kills or seriously harms someone, a person under 18 may be charged in adult court for a DUI.
Get in Touch With My SoCal Lawyers for Juvenile Defense Attorneys You Can Trust
Though it is frightening to watch your child go through the criminal justice system, there are resources and support available for you. Your child, like any other criminal defendant, deserves an honest, qualified attorney to work on their case. If you are in the Murrieta area, our team at My SoCal Lawyers is here to help.
For more information, or to schedule an initial consultation, contact My SoCal Lawyers today.