My Teenager Was Arrested- Now What?
Despite the best parenting attempts, our teenagers sometimes make poor choices and end up on the wrong side of the law. Underage drinking, marijuana possession, or joyriding can sometimes result in a world of legal trouble. How does the court system treat minors? What are the potential ramifications if your minor child, called a juvenile by the courts, gets a felony or misdemeanor conviction?
More serious or violent offenses may be treated more harshly by the court. One of the options juvenile court judges have is to commit a juvenile to the department of juvenile justice if they have committed a felony or have an extensive delinquency record. This can result in the juvenile being placed in a juvenile correctional facility until they reach 21 years of age. For the most egregious felony offenses, a juvenile’s charge can be sent to a circuit court, where a juvenile may be sentenced as an adult.
Unlike an adult criminal charge, juvenile charges begin in the juvenile and domestic relations district court in the county or city where the crime occurred. Juveniles are afforded the same rights as an adult (such as the right to remain silent, cross-examine witnesses), and have the option of pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest. There is one major difference between the treatments of adults and juveniles in the court system— if a juvenile court judge finds that a juvenile is “delinquent” (in other words, that there are sufficient facts to convict the juvenile), the court can carry the matter out and give the juvenile an opportunity to have the charge dismissed. During this time, the juvenile may have to complete community service, undergo counseling, or pay restitution. It is critical that while the juvenile’s case is pending that he or she not obtain new charges and attend school every day.
Any charges, even ones as seemingly minor as a traffic ticket, should be taken seriously for a juvenile. For example, a juvenile convicted of two demerit point traffic violations will have their license suspended for 90 days, while a third will result in a license revocation for a year or until he or she turns 18. While a misdemeanor conviction will be sealed from the public and destroyed once the juvenile turns 19, the information about such conviction will still be forwarded to the Central Criminal Record Exchange for police records. A felony conviction where the juvenile is not tried as an adult will permanently remain on their record. However, the juvenile will not be subject to the loss of civil rights such as the right to vote or sitting on a jury.