The National TOP 100 Trial Lawyers
America's Top 100 - Criminal Defense Attorneys
Avvo Reviews
Avvo Ratting 10.0 Top Attorney
Avvo Clients' Choice Award 2018
The University of Texas at Austin School of Law

What Is Juvenile Law? What You Need to Know for a Strong Defense

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

The Texas court system is brutal for anyone facing charges. The state of Texas has the dubious distinction of incarcerating more people on average than any other state. It’s no wonder that Texas law can be tough on young people who find themselves in trouble. Law enforcement agencies arrested nearly 700,000 Americans under the age of 18 in 2019 and Texas is routinely at the top.

An arrest in Texas is never a light matter. The system is designed to punish, not to rehabilitate, and can be unforgiving even for the youngest offenders. For a child or anyone under 18, getting arrested in Texas can be difficult or outright traumatizing. To give your child the best shot at protecting their future, hire an experienced juvenile lawyer right away. To minimize your worry, it’s also important to understand how juvenile law works.

What is juvenile law, and what principles govern it? What is the process for a juvenile case? What can you do to protect your child’s future if they are caught up in the Texas court system?

Answer these questions to get a better understanding of Texas juvenile law and how to navigate the process. Here is your quick guide.

The Principles of Juvenile Law

It may seem obvious, but adults and children think and act very differently when it comes to decision making. Because of this, most states have separate courts to handle adult and juvenile law. Juvenile law is the form of law that applies specifically to young people and Texas juvenile courts are set up to hear these cases.

Years of scientific research reveals that young people have very different brains from adults. A 2018 paper found the parts of the brain that encourage pursuing rewards and decision making undergo significant changes during adolescence. This can cause young people to make decisions without considering the consequences like an adult would normally do.

Texas Juvenile courts attempt to take this into account. Harsh punishments can be traumatizing for children and potentially ruin a young persons future. The process is accommodating but it is far from perfect and many children, and their families, can find themselves caught in the grip of a very tough Texas court system.

Courts usually refer to crimes that minors commit as “delinquent acts.” Status offenses are offenses that are related to the minor’s legal status, and courts do not take them as seriously as other acts. Violating curfew regulations and possessing alcohol are two examples.

Juveniles under the age of 10 are not charged with criminal offenses because they have a limited sense of morality and decision making capacity. Juveniles between the ages of 10 and 15 are rarely charged for the same reason.

Steps in Juvenile Cases

Juvenile cases follow similar trajectories. Yet each case is different. Anyone facing a juvenile criminal case should talk to a juvenile defense lawyer about what exactly will happen.


A juvenile enters the justice system after they get arrested or receive a referral. A police officer may catch them in the act and ask them to go on their way. This is common for something like a noise complaint at a party.

But members of the public can refer a juvenile to the court system. Educators or crime victims may file a report with the police.

Intake and Diversion

Intake officers process criminal complaints in a juvenile court. They can determine whether a case should proceed or be dismissed.

They can also take a third option and handle the case through diversion. Diversion is an informal process during which a juvenile receives supervision and participates in programs. They may receive educational services, training for job skills, and mental health treatment.

Diversion is a standard option for juveniles who committed minor offenses or have mental health disorders. A minor can receive programs on a school campus or at their home.


Juveniles who are charged with extremely serious offenses can stand trial as adults. This is a rare step. There are several factors that affect when juveniles are tried as adults.

A juvenile must stand accused of an offense like rape, murder, or drug trafficking. There may be few or no mitigating circumstances that make the offense less severe. A judge must feel as though the nature of the offense necessitates a higher standard of justice.

A prosecutor must also establish probable cause that the juvenile committed the act. The judge must feel as though there is a strong probability of conviction, though the case has not been tried yet.

A judge must consider if diversion or another approach would work for the minor. A transfer must be the last option, taken if a minor has committed a series of similar behaviors. The minor may or may not have a criminal record.


Even if court officers decide to bring a case to trial, a juvenile may not be detained. If a juvenile is not a flight risk or a danger to their community, they can stay at home. They will need to remain in contact with court officials, but they can go to school and attend to their personal responsibilities.

A juvenile has the right to a juvenile criminal lawyer. They should research different lawyers and hire the best lawyer they can find. But a court will provide a juvenile with an attorney if they cannot afford one.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys perform discovery as they do on adult cases. They research the circumstances of the crime and evaluate different pieces of evidence. This may take some time to carry out.


Many juvenile cases are resolved through plea agreements. A juvenile may plead guilty to a lesser charge. They may agree with the prosecution to receive probation or participate in diversion programs.

If a plea agreement is not reached, a case will go before a judge. Juvenile courts do not use jury trials. But an adjudication hearing is similar to a trial, in that both sides present evidence and witnesses to buttress their case.


If a youth is found guilty, they meet with a probation officer. The officer conducts an interview and evaluates the case. They then determine what the intervention for the young person should be.

A judge convenes a hearing to review the recommendations for intervention. They can ask prosecutors and defense attorneys to speak before coming to a decision.

Most judges decide on probation. A juvenile remains under the supervision of a probation officer and must adhere to their rules. But some juveniles are placed in residential facilities in which they may stay overnight.

So What Is Juvenile Law?

If a kid gets arrested, their life can turn upside down as they find themselves at the mercy of the brutal Texas legal system. It’s not a good place to be for anyone, especially a young person. Whether guilty or innocent, that child’s future hangs in the balance and getting experienced legal help is critical to protecting their rights. One wrong move or decision along the way could spell disaster.

What is juvenile law? It is a separate branch of law that affects juveniles, taking into account their behavior and brain development. What is the process for juvenile law? It is gradual, as court officials may defer a case. A child may receive counseling instead of imprisonment.

What is a trial like? A judge hears evidence from both sides and evaluates it. They then determine what the punishment is.

Don’t let the Texas legal machine threaten your child’s future. Get a juvenile lawyer who knows how to fight and win in Texas juvenile court. The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski has been fighting and winning juvenile cases for over two decades. When it comes to defending a young person’s future, attorney Andrea M. Kolski is second-to-non. Serving Montgomery county, The Woodlands, and Houston-area residents. Contact our office today.

Visit Us

By Appointment Only - Contact Us

The Woodlands Office
8505 Technology Forest Pl #104

The Woodlands, TX 77381

Phone: 832-381-3430

Get in Touch

Free Consultation 832-381-3430

What Our Customers Say

"Andrea is a fantastic attorney versed in many fields. I've retained her services for criminal defense, nondisclosure orders, and family law. She has always provided a...

Steven Street Texas

"Andrea and her staff are definitely one of the greatest of all time. Their professionalism and knowledge of the law and how the system works is unparalleled. I have her...

Dwight Osteen Texas

“Andrea is the most amazing attorney I have ever had in my corner.” — Vincent, client facing 2nd DWI charge, CASE DISMISSED