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Juvenile Justice Matters: an Overview

by Dore Frances, IEC, M.A., founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
Juvenile law deals with crimes committed by children. The maximum age for a juvenile offender varies from state to state, but is most commonly seventeen. By federal law, a juvenile is a person under the age of eighteen when he or she violates the law he or she is charged with.

Governmental bodies, including the federal government, states and cities, prosecute various crimes committed by children, from traffic violations to felonies. When your child has been charged with a crime, it is essential that you seek legal counsel from an experienced juvenile defense attorney at once so that you can preserve his or her rights and future.

Children involved in juvenile court matters have many of the same rights their parents would have if they were accused of a crime.

These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to cross-examine witnesses against them and the right to be represented by an attorney. Additionally, in most states, juvenile court records are not open to the public, but are sealed, so that no one will be able to access a juvenile record. A juvenile defense attorney can explain and clarify your local practices and take some of the mystery out of a frightening situation.

Parental Liability

Many states have adopted laws that make parents responsible for the actions of their children. Some states impose criminal liability on parents and other states provide that a parent may be sued by a person injured by their child. In addition, many cities and counties have enacted ordinances, or local laws, that make a parent guilty of an offense, such as "failing to supervise a minor," when a child breaks the law. Since the laws vary so much, and since the legal and financial consequences may be severe, you need an experienced juvenile attorney to advise you regarding your rights and responsibilities.

What To Do When Your Child Is Arrested

There can be few more frightening or intimidating telephone calls that a parent can receive than one saying that his or her child has been arrested. The first reaction of most parents is to panic.

What is a parent to do? The first, and seemingly hardest, task is to avoid giving in to that panic. Your child needs your help now, as much as at any other time in his or her life. Panicking helps neither of you. To help you and your child in this most difficult time, you should consult an experienced juvenile defense attorney. The second task is to keep the disciplinarian in you from clouding your judgment. Many parents of children who are arrested for relatively minor offenses, such as vandalism or shoplifting, are inclined to let the justice system "teach a lesson." Although all children need discipline, a child who is under arrest faces a system that is going to be far more frightening and intimidating than any he or she has ever encountered before. Your child needs your support.

How the Juvenile Justice System Works

The juvenile justice system is based on the adult criminal justice system. The goal of juvenile court may differ from criminal court, however, the processes have similarities in application.

Both systems are based on protecting society and holding law-breakers accountable for his or her actions.

Unlike adults, children may be sent to juvenile court through a variety of ways: arrest, truancy, "running away", curfew violations or referrals from teachers, victims or parents. Some youths enter addiction treatment centers, alternative rehabilitation residential programs or wilderness therapy programs instead of the juvenile court system. It depends on the court, jurisdiction, if there are safe programs available to help the child or if the parents are financially able to have their child enter into a private residential treatment program by working with an educational consultant who has experience with the juvenile justice and legal system.

(Many parents finance this need with an educational loan).

Others enter the juvenile justice system and are left to face what is offered, which is often state run programs.

A skilled and knowledgeable defense lawyer and educational consultant can make a skilled team by knowing his or her way around the juvenile justice system and can navigate through the complex procedures to help you attain a fair conclusion for your child. To make sure your child has skilled counsel, turn to an experienced and knowledgeable juvenile defense attorney.

When your adolescent's freedom and future are in jeopardy, experience counts. DISCLAIMER: The above information is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

Dore Frances, IEC, is an educcational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email
See our listing on ISER.COM

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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