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What Happens When a Minor Breaks the Law?

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

It’s definitely one of the harder parts of parenting when your child gets into trouble. Even more so if the trouble they’re in has to do with the law.

When you find yourself in this situation it can leave you with a world of questions: What happens next? Will my child go to prison? How will this affect their future?

If you’re unsure of what happens when a minor breaks the law, we’re here to help. Here’s a quick guide on juvenile law so that you’re fully prepared for these types of situations.

What Happens After the Arrest

According to juvenile laws in Texas, after a minor gets arrested the police can hold them for as long as 48 hours. This can be due to suspicion of a crime or due to a proven crime.

However, after the 48 hours have elapsed, the police will need to decide on the next steps. Either the juvenile can return home to their parents’ custody until the trial or they can continue to stay in custody until trial.

If a minor gets released, however, there are several steps that can now happen:

Further Investigation

Sometimes the police may feel that they need more information. They may request that the minor return to them at a specified date for further investigation into the case.

Referral to a Prosecutor

If the police have enough evidence to prove a minor’s guilt, they may get referred to a prosecuting agent. The prosecuting agent will in turn assess the case and take necessary action.

Referral to a Probation Officer

In some cases, a juvenile may get placed on probation. They may need to regularly check in with a probation officer or complete community service as a result of their actions.

No More Action

Sometimes the police may choose to release a minor with no more action. This happens when the police don’t have sufficient evidence for a conviction or when they feel that time in custody was a severe enough punishment for the person in question.

The severity of the crime among other factors will determine which course of action the police choose to take. Being prepared for any of these actions can help you manage the next steps after a child gets arrested.

Going to Court: Adult Law vs Juvenile Law

When a minor gets sent to court, it doesn’t function in the same way that it would if they went to an adult court. That’s because usually, people who are younger than 18 go to juvenile court.

The benefits of being a juvenile trial include:

  • Being given sentences that will ultimately help the child in the future
  • Receiving less severe penalties
  • Sealing records so that their offenses will not cause problems in their adult life

The severity of the juvenile crimes that are committed and the number of times that the child has committed those crimes can influence the outcome of the trial. In severe cases, a minor may be sent to foster care or to a detention center as punishment.

In juvenile court, the outcome of the trial depends more on what’s best for the teenager than on the crime itself. This is a major difference between adult court and juvenile court.

Understanding the Legal Rights of a Minor

There are several key rights that juveniles have when they are arrested. Some of these rights are determined by the federal government and others are put in place by state and local governments.

Police Need Probable Cause in Order to Search a Juvenile

Just the same as the police need probable cause to search an adult, they need this in order to search or arrest a minor as well. The only exception to this rule is if a school official or a parent has knowledge of the crime and alerts the police.

A Minor May Make a Phone Call After an Arrest

After being arrested, a teenager has the right to make a phone call to someone of their choosing. This is one of the Miranda Rights, and while it’s often portrayed as a TV trope, it’s a reality that juveniles should know about. Many minors choose to call their parents, which can help them prepare for the next steps.

Minors Must Be Read Their Miranda Rights

Another important right that juveniles have is being read their Miranda Rights. These rights help protect them from self-incrimination. Make sure that your child understands that anything he or she says following an arrest can be used as evidence in court.

Minors Have the Right to a Lawyer

Just like any adult, minors have the right to counsel. In other words, they have the right to a juvenile lawyer that can defend them in court. When selecting an attorney for your child you want to make sure that you select someone who has experience working in juvenile court as this differs from adult court.

Minors Must Receive Notice of Their Charges

Part of due process for minors involves notifying them of any charges that they may face. When your child is accused of a crime, the police must alert them to what the charges are. This gives your child a fair chance to defend him or herself and to properly prepare for the consequences.

Minors Are Not Eligible for Bail

One thing that many people don’t realize is that minors are not eligible for bail. Either the police will release them back to the custody of their parents or will hold them for an indefinite amount of time until they are able to go to trial.

Understand Juvenile Law and Protect Your Child

Juvenile law is complex. There are many different factors that affect the outcome of a juvenile court case. Understanding these factors and how juvenile law works can help you protect your child in the event that they commit a crime.

If you need criminal or family defense support after your child faces legal charges, you’re in the right place. The Law Firm of Andrea Kolski offers families the legal support they need. Reach out today to speak with a lawyer!

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