Texas Juvenile Criminal Defense
Title 3 of the Texas Family Code was enacted by the legislature in 1973. The goals of the code were to provide for the development and care of the children of Texas accused of committing a crime. Removing the black mark of a criminal record from the child for something considered as unlawful was paramount. Separating the child from his or her parents was something the legislature realized should happen only when necessary. Title 3 of the Family Code has changed through the years and was revised as the Juvenile Justice Code in 1995. In 2011, the two state agencies which composed the juvenile justice system were abolished by the 82nd Legislature. These agencies were the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. In their place, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) was formed.What is a Juvenile Crime in Texas?
In Texas, the definition of a “child” is dependent on his or her age. The Texas Family Code defines a child as a person who is ten years or older and under the age of seventeen. If a juvenile has committed a crime and is being supervised, the court with jurisdiction over the child loses its control over the child when the child turns eighteen.What Happens When a Juvenile Commits a Crime in Texas?
If law enforcement is contacted regarding the conduct of a juvenile there are several options available. The law enforcement person or peace officer may issue a warning only to the child and not take the child into custody. The notice of warning is then sent to the child’s parent, custodian, or guardian.
The juvenile system in Texas is no different than the adult system in that the police may not detain a child without probable cause. In other words, a hunch isn’t enough. There must be reasonably trustworthy information that is sufficient to believe that the child has committed an illegal act. In rural counties like Walker, Madison, Leon, Grimes, Montgomery, and San Jacinto Counties, you as a parent need to be vigilant in order to make sure the rights of your child are not being violated. If your child is arrested and taken into the Texas Juvenile Justice System, your child needs representation by an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney.
In the event your child is taken into custody, your child may be held at a juvenile processing office for up to six hours. Typically, this is a room at the local police department that will be used for the detention of your child. Law enforcement may not take your child to the local jail or other type of detention facility.What is a Juvenile Detention Facility?
If the child is not released to the parents or a guardian within the six hours, the child must be transported to a juvenile detention facility. You as a parent are supposed to have the right to communicate privately and in person while the child is at the detention center. However, the best interest of the child may prohibit this contact in places like Montgomery County, Texas. In Montgomery County, typically the juvenile probation department will have to screen the parent before they may communicate with their child. Again, if your child is in this position in the juvenile detention center, you should contact a juvenile criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney will probably be able to get answers that you as the parent are seeking and are unable to obtain.Will Law Enforcement be Able to see my Juvenile Records?
Yes. This is an often-misunderstood area of juvenile law. Although it’s true that when law enforcement files charges on a juvenile that the charges cannot be disclosed to the public, other agencies will be able to see these charges. The Texas Department of Public Safety maintains the Texas Juvenile Justice Information System, which was created in 1995. If you or your child is arrested and charged with a crime, the district attorney, law enforcement, and your criminal defense attorney will be able to see your juvenile contacts with law enforcement and offenses. Once again, if you or your child has been detained on suspicion of a crime in Texas, you need to hire a criminal defense attorney immediately.What is a Detention Hearing?
If your child is taken into custody and not released, the Texas Family Code requires that that a detention hearing be held in the designated juvenile court for your county. The detention hearing must be held promptly, but in any case, must be held no later than the second working day after your child is taken into custody. In Montgomery County, the detention hearings are held in downtown Conroe usually on Mondays and Thursdays. At this stage, your child must be represented by a lawyer. If you do not hire an attorney, your child will be represented by a public defender or court appointed attorney. The public defender or court appointed attorney will also be handling dozens and dozens of other cases. Be smart and retain an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney that will make your child a priority.