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What happens if a youth is charged with a crime?

You may have been having problems with your child for a couple of years. It has been a challenge raising a son who will not listen to you anymore. No matter how hard you try as a parent, sometimes you just do not feel like you are reaching him. It is very hard to do since you possibly work long hours and cannot always be at home. Unfortunately, as a single parent, you do not have a choice. You must work to provide for your son. You say that it will never happen to you. The idea of your child breaking the law. But what if it does happen? What do you do?

What is juvenile court?

Children are very vulnerable members of society. They need special care to thrive. That is why the juvenile justice system was created. The goal is to allow the children to go to juvenile court. The type of court system depends on what state you live in. Children get involved with the juvenile justice system for various reasons. They could have committed a criminal act or what is considered a delinquent act. Other possible offenses are violated because of the youth’s age. Offenses like running away from home, truancy or underage drinking. Not all the cases will go through the courts.

If you have a child who is under seven years old, they cannot be tried in juvenile court. However, you the parent may be held responsible for whatever crime they may have committed. Children between seven and 15-years-old are ideal for juvenile court. Children 12 to 18-years-old are usually taken to juvenile court, but depending on the severity of the crime, like murder perhaps, some prosecutors may try children in an adult court.

Once your case has made it to juvenile court, the prosecutor or juvenile court officer will decide whether to file formal charges for the offense or handle it “off the record.” If it is handled off the record, that means the court will not be filing any formal charges. The youth may have to pay if there is a victim or be ordered to perform community service.

If formal charges are filed, here is what to expect:

  • Arraignment- your child will be formally charged before a juvenile judge
  • Hearing- the court will decide whether to take the case or send it to an adult court. If that happens the judge will order a “fitness hearing” to decide whether it is a vital option
  • Entering a plea- this is where the child enters a plea and depending on that plea, may go to trial
  • Going to trial- in this court at trial the judge will hear the evidence and decide if your child is guilty or innocent
  • Sentencing- if the judge decides your child is indeed guilty, they will then be sentenced
  • Post-sentencing- sometimes a child will be asked to appear before court to keep them updated on their improvement.

If your child is ever charged with a crime, knowing how the juvenile justice system works is vital.

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