What is the Juvenile Court System?
One of the worst things that can happen to a parent is finding out their child has been arrested and is accused of a crime, or an act of juvenile delinquency. Our attorneys are here to help you through this stressful time and protect your child and his or her future.
Juvenile court is the court children (under 18) go to instead of adult criminal court. They are not charged with crimes, but instead, are accused of acts of juvenile delinquency. However, they can be transferred to adult court, especially if they are older or their crimes are more serious.
Juvenile penalties are more lenient, and more focused on treatment and rehabilitation, as compared to the punitive penalties of adult criminal court. Juvenile cases are also automatically sealed when the child turns 21.
What is a Juvenile Offense?
In Nevada, the juvenile court system handles cases where minors under the age of 18 are alleged to have broken the law, or in other words, committed acts of juvenile delinquency. The big issue in many juvenile delinquency cases is whether the child will be certified to face the criminal charges as an adult, or if the child will remain under the supervision of the juvenile court system. This is often the biggest factor in whether the child will have a relatively good or bad outcome in the case, as facing charges as an adult is far more serious than a juvenile delinquency proceeding.
Will the Prosecutor Charge my Child as an Adult?
Only the judge can determine whether your child faces charges as an adult in Nevada. The prosecutor can only ask the judge to certify the child as an adult, but ultimately, the Court will decide.
In general, the older the child is, the more likely they are to be certified to face the charges as an adult by the judge. Similarly, the more serious the accusation, the more likely they are to be certified.
Almost always, children 16 or 17 years old will face the charges as an adult if their crimes are alleged to include:
- Attempted Murder
- Crimes Using Firearms
- Sexual Assault or Rape
What Penalties do Juveniles Face?
If the case remains with the juvenile court, there are several forms of punishment which your child could ultimately face. These can include:
- Community Service
- Fines or Financial Penalties
- Juvenile Detention
- Youth Camp
- Driver's License Suspension
The common theme of these penalties is that they are meant to rehabilitate the child rather than punish them, which would be the case in the adult system. In juvenile detention and youth camp specifically, the minor will receive treatment crafted for their personal situation to help them turn their life around in the future.
Do Parents have rights in Juvenile Court?
Parents and the guardians of a child in the juvenile court may always opt to have an attorney during the case, just as the juvenile themselves has a right to an attorney. The juvenile court must also keep the parents up to date as to the case proceedings, hearings, and changes in the custodial status of the minor child.
What is the Procedure in a Juvenile Case?
Just like adult criminal cases, juvenile delinquency cases follow a certain procedure. The steps of a juvenile case are:
- Initial Detention – the child is taken into custody.
- Detention Hearing – the court must decide whether to keep the child in custody or release the child.
- Petition – the District Attorney must then file a Petition seeking a court ruling that the child has committed certain acts of delinquency.
- Hearing – a hearing, analogous to a trial, will be held to determine whether the District Attorney can prove the case against the minor child.
- Supervision – The court may release the minor on informal supervision.
- Formal supervision – The court may commit the juvenile to detention or to treatment at a youth camp.
What is the Burden of Proof in a Juvenile Case?
The prosecutor has the burden to prove a juvenile delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt. That means the prosecutor has to meet the highest standard of proof under the law, just like in adult criminal cases.
How to Defend against Juvenile Delinquency Accusations?
Just like an adult criminal case, your attorney will have an opportunity to defend the minor child against these accusations. Some defenses might include:
- Mistaken identity.
- The child was coerced or forced to do something by an older person.
- The prosecution does not have enough evidence.
- Law enforcement violated the child's rights when obtaining evidence.
The best way to handle your child's situation depends on the unique factors involved in his or her case. Our child defense attorneys will investigate every aspect of the case to guide you and your child through the best way to achieve a good outcome. Contact us today and let us get to work protecting your child's future.