How are juvenile charges handled?
The Juvenile Court has jurisdiction of your child between age 8 and their 18th birthday. At the upper end of the age spectrum (15 years of age and older), the law provides that if the child is charged with certain offenses – murder, forcible rape, armed robbery or certain other violent offenses – the child will be tried as an adult. In other cases, where the government wants to try the child as an adult, the prosecutor must make a transfer application to the court, and have it approved by the judge. In the case of a juvenile 14 years of age or older, who is charged with a felony and who has two prior felony convictions, the case may be tried in adult court if it is deemed necessary to protect the public.
In most adult criminal cases, a jury decides the issue of guilt or innocence. In juvenile cases the decision is made by a judge. There is no mandatory sentencing in juvenile cases, and most juveniles who find themselves charged with delinquency are eligible for what is known as “pre-filing diversion.” These are programs which, although not without some consequences (including, among other things, apologies, community service, and/or classes), are designed to avoid repetition of the same mistakes. In Maricopa County, around 80% to 90% of juveniles who are placed in diversion programs successfully complete the program.
Common Juvenile Charges
Probably the most common charges against juveniles in Arizona involve
- Underage drinking (minor in possession, minor in consumption);
- Graffiti, egging, and other acts of vandalism that cause damage to or destroy property;
- This is usually a petty theft offense, but the nature or value of the property could result in a felony charge.
- Simple assault. This is often the result of fights between teens.
- Drug abuse. Possession and use of drugs is common among teenagers. Drugs include marijuana, prescription drugs and other substances. A recent study indicates that close to half of all teens have actually used drugs. Even innocent experimentation could lead to a juvenile charge.
The consequences for many of these charges include substance abuse counseling and evaluation, curfews, fines, and community service.
Juvenile Arrests in Arizona
While there are cases in which juveniles can be charged and tried as adults, we can say confidently that the percentage of cases in which juvenile offenses are treated within the adult criminal justice system is decreasing. In addition, in Arizona the rate of juvenile arrests is on the decline. And the decline covers both property crime arrests and violent crime arrests.
Defense of Juvenile Charges in Phoenix, AZ
There are major differences between handling an adult criminal case and a juvenile charge. The nature of the charges is often different, the court system is different, the rules are different, and the consequences are different. Nevertheless, when it is your child who has been charged, the implications are serious. You want to provide the very best in legal representation to minimize any negative impact on your child’s future.
At Feldman & Royle, we know what you and your family are going through. If your child is facing a juvenile charge, call us today to see how we can help. Your initial consultation is free.