It’s a nightmare scenario for any parent: you hear a knock on the door and discover the police on your doorstep to tell you that your child has run into trouble with the law. Now your kid is facing criminal charges and might be saddled with the label of juvenile delinquent. If this describes your child or a child close to you, you likely have many questions. What consequences are they facing? Can they be tried as adults and subject to adult penalties? Will there be any penalties for you, their parent?

The criminal defense lawyers of Joyner Law have experience across many criminal practice areas, and we are here to walk you through what you need to know when your child is accused of committing a life-altering crime.

What Are Juvenile Criminal Charges?

When it comes to juvenile crimes, there are different classes of offenses for minors. Acts of delinquency describe offenses that would be considered crimes regardless of the age of the offender, for example assault, or driving under the influence. Status offenses, on the other hand, describe crimes that are only relevant to underage offenders, such as truancy or underage possession of alcohol.

A trial for a minor in juvenile court is known as adjudication, and a criminal conviction as a minor can also be known as an adjudication. When a child is arrested, there are a few options for what will happen depending on the type and severity of the charge. When a cop picks up a juvenile offender, they have the option to release the child to go home to their parents, which is the most likely result of a status offense. However, if your child has committed a more serious crime, there is a possibility that they will be held in a juvenile detention center.

The most likely result of either option is that you and your child will be sent a summons to appear in juvenile court.

Juvenile Court

The juvenile court functions similarly to regular court with a few caveats. An important aspect to note is that juvenile court is designed primarily for rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. There is also a likelihood that there will not be a jury in your child’s trial unless they are being tried for a violent crime. It is also possible that the trial will be presided over by a Magistrate–a judge with limited authority–rather than a regular judge.

While in court, a child has the same Constitutional rights as an adult, the right to defense by a lawyer, and the ability to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

The procedure of the court will depend on a number of factors. If the crime committed is not too serious or the child is a first-time offender, they might simply be issued a verbal warning.

Also playing a factor are the different classes of juvenile delinquency, including:

  • Mandatory sentence offender: If a juvenile offender has been adjudicated twice, or if their probation has been revoked, they can be removed from their parental home for more than a year, though in some cases they will receive an alternative sentence of less than a year away from the home. This type of sentence can be commuted for good behavior.
  • Repeat juvenile offender: This type of offender has been previously adjudicated for a delinquent act and subsequently adjudicated for a felony delinquent act. Alternatively, this type of label can be used for a juvenile whose probation has been revoked for a delinquent act. A repeat juvenile offender can be sentenced for a minimal term to the Colorado Department of Human Services.
  • Violent juvenile offender: A violent juvenile offender is at least 13 years old and has been adjudicated for a crime of violence. These offenders can also be sentenced to the Colorado Department of Human Services.
  • Aggravated juvenile offender: These types of offenders must be at least 12 years old and adjudicated for a class 1 or 2 felony OR their probation has been revoked for a class 1 or 2 felony. These offenders can be sentenced to the Colorado Department of Human Services for five years.

One important aspect to note: in certain circumstances, minors can be tried as adults in court in Colorado. Juveniles as young as twelve can be tried as adults if they commit a class 1 felony, a class 2 felony, or a crime of violence. Whether or not your child’s trial will be commuted to adult court will depend on a number of factors, including the child’s age, the severity of the offense, and their criminal history.

Penalties For Juvenile Offenses

As in adult court, the level of the offense will determine the outcome of the punishment. For the most part, penalties will be geared toward restorative justice and rehabilitation in an effort to get the child back on the right track. Some of the consequences that they may be facing include, but are not limited to:

  • Time spent in a juvenile detention facility
  • Restitution for damages
  • Sentencing with the Colorado Department of Human Services
  • Fines
  • Community service
  • Rehabilitation programs

If your child is tried in adult court, they will be subject to the mandatory minimum sentence for their crime.

Parental Liability For Juvenile Crimes

If your child commits a crime, you might be wondering to what extent you can be held accountable. The court expects you to take a certain level of responsibility for your child, including a good faith effort to help rehabilitate them. If your child is summoned to appear in juvenile court, both parents are expected to accompany them, if possible.

Depending on the outcome of your child’s trial, you might be expected to show support in ways that include, but are not limited to:

  • You may have to help pay damages and restitution fees
  • You may need to participate in your child’s court-ordered community service
  • You may need to attend parental responsibility programs

Additionally, the court has the potential to remove your child from you, particularly if your child is very young and there is suspicion or proof of abuse. This removal could be temporary or permanent. Speak with your lawyer about defenses for your child, as well as your rights regarding your child in this specific instance.

Joyner Law Can Help You With Your Criminal Charges

At Joyner Law, we have helped defend clients against charges ranging from drunk driving to assault, and many more. If you or your child have been arrested for a crime, we can fight for you to have your charges reduced or dropped. Reach out to schedule a free initial consultation and learn how we can construct a defense that will help you defend your rights.