Dealing with Juvenile Crime in Texas

Juvenile can break the law  just like adults, but their punishments are usually different depending on their age. Even though the system for young people is more forgiving than for adults, they can still face serious consequences that change their lives.

When talking about juveniles breaking the law in Texas, it’s important to understand the laws and consequences from a criminal defense point of view. This post will explain what qualifies as a young person’s crime in Texas and offer some insights into the legal process.

Who is Considered a Juvenile in Texas?

In Texas, individuals aged 17 or younger are classified as juveniles and are tried in specialized courts just for them, not with adults. These courts have different judges and jails just for underaged people.

The focus in these courts is on helping juveniles people get better, not just punishing them. For example, if a teenage is accused of a minor fight, they would go to a special court for juvenile, not the regular adult court.

Also, records of what happens in these courts are kept private. This means that the public cannot see them. The only time schools are told about what happens is if a young person is arrested, so the school knows why they are not in class.

Juvenile Crime Proceedings in Texas

Sometimes, if a juvenile breaks a minor rule, the police might just warn them and their parents. But if it’s more serious, they might involve juvenile probation officials to keep everyone safe and prevent more problems.

If a young person is accused of a serious crime, they get fingerprinted, and their fingerprints are put in a state database. This means any police or juvenile justice agency in Texas can see their criminal history. At this point, the record of their arrest stays with them for a long time and can affect them in the future.

Juvenile Crime Statistics

Juvenile crime and arrest numbers in Texas can change annually. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) says that over 50,000 teenagers are arrested in Texas each year, but overall, there has been a decrease in juvenile crime over the last ten years.

The most common crimes committed by young people in Texas are theft, simple assault, drug offenses, and criminal mischief. Even though juvenile crime is going down, some areas still have issues with youth crime.

Types of Juvenile Crimes

A police officer can arrest a juvenile if there’s strong evidence that the juvenile:

  • Violated a criminal law,
  • Engaged in delinquent acts,
  • Disobeyed a probation condition, or
  • Showed signs of needing supervision.

Signs of needing supervision include:

  • Committing minor offenses,
  • Breaking local laws,
  • Leaving home without permission,
  • Inhaling paint fumes,
  • Violating school rules,
  • Engaging in prostitution, or
  • Sharing inappropriate images online.

Parental Responsibility Laws

Parental responsibility laws exist in every state to hold parents or guardians accountable for their children’s actions. In Texas, parents can be held responsible for certain acts committed by their minor children, but not for personal injuries caused by them.

These laws are based on the idea that parents should supervise and control their children to prevent them from causing harm. Texas laws regarding parental liability are divided into two components:

Negligence in Cases of a Child’s Actions

One part of Texas’ parental responsibility law holds parents accountable for their child’s negligent behavior, particularly in cases of property damage. However, a parent is only liable if it can be proven that their failure to supervise or discipline the child directly contributed to the child’s negligent actions.

This responsibility applies to parents regardless of the child’s age, but it ends when the child turns 18.

Willful and Malicious Behavior

Another aspect of Texas’ parental responsibility law concerns parents’ liability for their child’s intentional and harmful actions causing property damage. The terms willful and malicious describe situations where a child deliberately causes harm and understands the consequences of their actions.

Parents can also be responsible for property damage caused by a child’s gross negligence or reckless behavior. This part of the law does not cover accidents or careless behavior. Parents are responsible for their child’s intentional and harmful actions if the child is at least 10 years old but not yet 18.

How Is the Child Punished?

The general punishment for juvenile crime charges in Texas varies depending on the specific offense committed.

When a child breaks a law, they may be committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department until they turn 19 or placed on probation until they reach 18 years of age.

In serious cases, the state can request that the juvenile justice system waive its jurisdiction so that the accused can be tried as an adult. Alternatively, in other severe cases, the state can seek a determinate sentence, which means the juvenile’s punishment transfers to the adult criminal justice system once they age out of the juvenile system.

The most severe penalty for a determinate sentence is 40 years in prison. Offenses in Texas eligible for a determinate sentence for violent crimes include:

  • aggravated assault,
  • sexual assault,
  • murder,
  • substance abuse,
  • manslaughter,
  • aggravated robbery,
  • criminal solicitation,
  • indecency with a child,
  • arson resulting in bodily injury or death, or
  • intoxication manslaughter.

Juvenile Detention in Texas

Juvenile detention centers in Texas provide secure, temporary housing for juveniles. Their purpose is to protect both the public and the young offender, ensuring they appear in court as required.

According to Texas law, juveniles held in detention must have a hearing to determine if there’s enough reason to keep them there. It’s crucial to note that authorities cannot hold a child without following proper legal procedures.

Probation in Texas

The court often chooses probation for young offenders. This allows them to remain at home and in school, which is less disruptive and costly.

When a juvenile is placed on probation, they must follow specific rules, including:

  • Following curfew rules
  • Attending and behaving well in school
  • Compensating victims financially
  • Taking part in specific programs, like community service

A probation officer supervises the juvenile to ensure they follow these rules, aiming to help them and their family build a better future. Parents play a crucial role in the probation process by providing financial, social, and emotional support, which is essential for the child’s success.

Possible Defense if Facing Juvenile Crime Charges

The best defense for a juvenile facing a criminal charge in Texas depends on the specific circumstances of the case. However, common defense strategies may include:

  1. Lack of intent: arguing that the juvenile did not have the intention to commit the crime.
  2. The alibi defense: involves presenting evidence that the juvenile was elsewhere when the crime occurred.
  3. Self-defense: showing that the juvenile’s actions were in self-defense.
  4. Improper procedure: challenging the legality of the arrest or the evidence obtained.
  5. Juvenile status: emphasizing the age and maturity level of the juvenile and advocating for rehabilitation instead of punishment.
  6. Witness credibility: questioning the credibility of witnesses or evidence presented by the prosecution.
  7. Mitigating circumstances: presenting factors that may lessen the severity of the crime or the culpability of the juvenile.

It’s crucial to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney with experience in juvenile cases to determine the best defense strategy for a specific case.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

Juvenile offenders can face significant consequences that can impact their future. This is why it’s essential to have a criminal defense attorney with experience in juvenile cases.

A skilled attorney can provide legal guidance, develop a defense strategy, and represent the juvenile in court. They can negotiate with prosecutors, advocate for rehabilitation over punishment, and ensure the protection of the juvenile’s rights throughout the legal process.

If your child is facing juvenile crime charges in Texas, don’t hesitate to seek legal help. Contact a criminal defense attorney with experience in juvenile law to ensure the best possible outcome for your child’s case.