Q. How old is someone to legally be a juvenile under Texas Law?
A. A person is considered to be an adult for criminal prosecution on their 17th birthday. Teenagers 16 and under, therefore, fall into the juvenile justice system. On very rare extremely serious cases, a juvenile could be certified to stand trial as an adult if a District Judge agrees.
Q. Do the same rules apply to Juvenile cases as criminal cases?
A. Yes and no. Texas Family Code Chapter 53 is a compilation of civil statutes that govern juvenile proceedings. Chapter 53 holds the Texas Penal Code governs criminal actions with some significant differences. Jail release and the classifications of criminal cases into sanction levels (instead of misdemeanors or felonies) are examples of some of the bigger differences. Also there are differences in how records are sealed in juvenile cases.
Q. How Do I get a Juvenile out of jail?
A. Police have two different options when arresting a juvenile. They can release them to the parents and issue them the equivalent to a citation – or they can take the juvenile into custody. If the juvenile is taken into custody then the juvenile has a right to a detention hearing pursuant to the Texas Family Code where a judge determines whether the child should be released back to the parents. These procedures are complicated and an attorney should be consulted about this type of release.
Q. Will my child be sent to prison or to the Texas Youth Commission?
A. Every case is obviously different. That being said, children being sentenced to short term confinement or long term confinement – while always a possibility for some offenses – is extremely unlikely. The vast majority of cases result in some type of probation.
Q. Can I have my child’s records cleared when it’s over?
A. The juvenile justice system affords several different ways to keep a child’s record clean. Again, each case presents it’s own challenges and you should consult an attorney as to the specifics of making sure your son or daughter is eligible for having their record sealed.