After a child is arrested for committing a crime, the parents often ask, “Should I hire a criminal defense attorney to represent my child?” A criminal defense attorney can fight to have the charges dismissed outright, to have the charges reduced, or to fight for a “not guilty” verdict at trial.
The criminal defense attorney can help the child understand all of the best options available to resolve the case including deferred prosecution or various diversion programs.
The attorney can also represent the child at a change of placement or expulsion hearing that might be triggered by the school after it finds out about the criminal charges, even if they did not occur on the school’s campus.
The juvenile justice systems in Bexar County, TX, deals with children between the age of 10 years old to 16 years old who are charged with a criminal offense. While the adult criminal justice system is punitive in nature, the juvenile justice system is supposed to be focused on the rehabilitative needs of the child.
The Juvenile Justice Center houses the Juvenile Probation Department, the District Clerk’s Office, the Juvenile Court Administration, three District Courts with three associate judges’ courtrooms.
Attorney for Juvenile Defense in San Antonio, TX
The juvenile defense attorneys at Flanary Law Firm, PLLC handle a variety of cases prosecuted by the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Juvenile Section including Class B misdemeanors up to Capital Murder allegedly committed by juveniles between the age of ten (10) and sixteen (16) years old.
Call today to find out more about hiring a criminal defense attorney during a free and confidential consultation. During the initial consultation, the attorneys at Flanary Law Firm, PLLC can help you understand the pending charges and ways to fight the case for the best possible result.
Call (210) 738-8383 today.
Stages of Juvenile Cases
The juvenile defense attorneys in San Antonio, TX, at Flanary Law Firm, PLLC represent children during all phases of the juvenile case including the initial detention hearing, during all pretrial conferences, during motions hearings to dismiss the charges for insufficient evidence or because some of the evidence was gathered illegally.
We also represent clients during any proceeding to determine their fitness or competence to proceed to trial in the Juvenile District Courts in Bexar County found in the 289th Juvenile District Court, the 386th Juvenile District Court, and the 436th Juvenile District Court.
Detention Hearings in Juvenile Court
After a child is detained because of a criminal accusation, the detention hearing will be scheduled immediately.
The purpose of the detention hearing is to determine whether the child should remain in detention until the court hears the case or whether the child should be released back to his parent or guardian. The detention hearing in juvenile court must be held on the second working day after the youth’s detention unless the youth is detained over a weekend, in which case it must be held on the first working day after detention.
Reasonable notice of the juvenile detention hearing must be given to the child and his or her parents.
The detention hearing is one of the most important parts of the case. The attorney gets an opportunity to learn more about the accusations. The criminal defense attorney also gets the opportunity to discuss the case with the prosecutor in order to present exculpatory evidence showing the child is innocent, mitigation, or defenses that the prosecution should consider before making any decision in the case.
In many of these cases, the criminal defense attorney can show the judge that no probable cause exists for the child’s detention.
Pretrial Conferences in Juvenile Court
The judge in juvenile court will schedule several pretrial conferences. At these conferences, the judge will make sure that the criminal defense attorney has everything needed to prepare for trial and resolve any outstanding discovery disputes.
The court might also schedule pretrial motions scheduled by the defense including a motion to dismiss the charges for insufficient evidence, a motion to exclude prejudicial and irrelevant evidence the prosecutor intends to present at trial, or a motion to suppress evidence that was gathered illegally.
Juvenile Cases Transfer to Adult Court
In the most serious cases, the prosecutor will determine whether the juvenile’s case should be transferred to adult court. Rules for transferring a juvenile case to adult court are explained in § 55.19 and the other Family Code provisions and Texas Code of Criminal Procedure provisions.
By hiring an experienced juvenile defense attorney in San Antonio, TX, your attorney can present all of the mitigation and exculpatory evidence to the prosecutor in order to show them all of the reasons the case should not be filed in adult court.
Adjudication Hearing With or Withold Agreement in Juvenile Court
The adjudication hearing is like the guilt/innocence phase of a criminal trial in adult court. The purpose of the adjudicatory hearing is to determine whether the child is guilty or not guilty of the crime. Even if there is a plea agreement, the court will conduct the adjudication hearing to determine whether the child is in need of additional supervision.
If no plea agreement has been reached and the child is not entering a plea, then an adjudication hearing proceeds to a jury trial or a bench trial. Under Texas law, the child has a right to a jury trial. If the petition was approved by a grand jury, the jury must consist of 12 jurors. Just like in adult court, the jury’s verdict must be unanimous.
Disposition and Sentencing in Juvenile Court
In some cases, the prosecutor might agree to reduce the charges. If the child enters a plea, the attorney might request an evaluation to use as mitigation evidence in sentencing. The evaluation will look at several factors including whether the offense was committed while the child was under the influence of substances or whether the child has a history of substance abuse.
The evaluation will also look at any history of emotional problems, behavioral problems, a history of abuse or neglect poor academic achievement, limited intellectual functioning or a history of violence.
In the most serious cases, the evaluation will be considered by the court along with any mitigation presented by the criminal defense attorney for the juvenile charged in San Antonio, TX.
If the child is found delinquent, there are seven sanction levels in juvenile court including:
- Level 7 for a Determinate Sentence With the Texas Youth Commission
- Level 6 for an Indeterminate Sentence With the Texas Youth Commission
- Level 5 for Institutionalization at the Community Level
- Level 4 for Intensive Supervision Probation
- Level 3 for Judicial Probation
- Level 2 for Deferred Prosecution
- Level 1 for Informal Disposition
Juvenile Direct Appeals
In Texas, the juvenile’s direct appeal is governed by the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure and Chapter 56 of the Texas Family Code. An appeal can be filed after any of the following:
- an adjudication hearing under § 54.03);
- a disposition hearing under § 54.04);
- a modification of disposition under § 54.05;
- a commitment proceeding under Chapter 55); or
- after the juvenile is transferred to the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division under § 56.01(c)(2)).
Although juvenile appeals are considered civil in nature, they are quasi-criminal. In many ways, they are similiar to appeals in adult court because many of the constitutional protections related to criminal laws and procedures still apply. The direct appeal in a juvenile case goes to the Texas Supreme Court rather than the Court of Criminal Appeals. As provided in § 51.041, if the case is remanded, the juvenile court still retains jurisdiction.
Juvenile Habeas Corpus
Juveniles have the right to apply for writs of habeas corpus under § 56.01(o). A writ of habeas corpus in a juvenile proceeding is a right given under the Texas Constitution and not the Code of Criminal Procedure. The rules for filing a habeas corpus from a juvenile case are generally governed by the Family Code.
Juvenile District Courts in Bexar County – Visit the Bexar County Courts website to find out more about the juvenile district courts in Bexar County, along with the judge assigned to each juvenile district court. Many of the judges in juvenile court in Bexar County serve on the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, Juvenile Probation Department and Court Reporters Oversight Committees.
Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department – The department employes more than 150 juvenile probation officers who supervise children before or after they are placed on probation by the judge in juvenile court. The intake juvenile probation officers process more than 1,500 cases each year. The units within the probation department for juveniles include Restitution/Victim Services, Project Connect, Family Preservation and Drug Court.
Juvenile Detention Center in Bexar County – The Juvenile Detention Center for Bexar County is located at 600 Mission Rd. San Antonio, TX 78210. Find information on scheduling a visit to a child being detained in the detention center for juveniles accused of committing a crime or delinquent act.
Juvenile Municipal Court in the City of San Antonio – The juvenile municipal court in the City of San Antonio Juvenile Municipal Court handles cases classified as a Class C Misdemeanor including traffic cases and truancy. A juvenile is any child under the age of 17 at the time of the offense. A juvenile accused of a Class C Misdemeanor is required to appear in court with a parent or guardian even if the child has a criminal defense attorney. If the juvenile fails to appear in court, a warrant can be issued for the child’s arrest if the child is 16 years of age or older.
Finding a Defense Attorney for Juvenile Court in Bexar County, TX
Our juvenile defense attorneys in San Antonio, TX, can help you understand more about pros and cons of entering a diversion program that might be offered to resolve the case. We can also help you learn about the consequences of agreeing to be supervised for the purposes of deferred prosecution or court-ordered probation. We can also explain what happens if the child is accused of later violating the terms of deferred prosecution or probation in a juvenile case.
We can help you understand when the juvenile record can be disclosed and the rules on sealing the record so that it is not avoidable for public view.
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Donald H. Flanary III
“I see our duty as more than just counselors and advocates, but as warriors.”