How Juvenile Justice Cases Start
The most important fact to remember is that, at the start of a juvenile criminal case, the probation department will suddenly become very important in a minor’s life. The courts heavily rely upon probation officers to determine issues such as whether or not a petition should be filed and/or whether or not a minor should be taken into custody or remain in custody.
It is during this critical period that a minor needs an attorney. Unfortunately, the public defender’s office gets these cases long after these important decisions are already made and can be of no assistance.
To illustrate how important it is to bring in an attorney as soon as possible in a juvenile case, there was a case where I was retained long after my client had a petition filed against him for possessing a weapon on school grounds.
Once the petition has been filed in cases like this, only the court can decide whether or not to dismiss or suspend proceeding, and that is an uphill battle since judges are far less inclined to dismiss or suspend a case. In this case, I spent two weeks gathering statements of support and enrolling my client in various programs to get a very reluctant judge to give my client another chance.
The shame of this is that, had I been retained at the very beginning of the case, I could have provided this information to the probation officer before charges were filed. If that had happened, it was a real possibility that the probation officer would agree that my client deserved a second chance rather than filing charges and leaving it up to a judge.
Furthermore, I might have been able to avoid a lot of lost time and stress for my client and his parents.
In juvenile cases, quickly gathering information from children and minors who witnessed an event is of critical importance. Often even more so than in adult cases.
There are a number of reasons why a child might change his or her statements, or simply forget vital information. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to speak with those witnesses as soon as possible.
Even if a probation officer decides to file a petition and seeks to continue to detain the minor, I always investigate every possible detention alternative, such as setting up a living situation with relatives. In my view, detention in juvenile hall should be considered a last resort after all other alternatives fail.
Sadly, all too often detention at juvenile hall will often turn a minor into a criminal because they are continuously exposed to a number of other sophisticated criminals.
The simple truth is that bringing in an experienced attorney at the beginning of a juvenile case can prevent huge problems from developing down the road.
Hiring An Attorney
Regardless of how significant the charges against a juvenile may seem, it’s always a good idea to retain the services of an experienced juvenile defense attorney. A good lawyer can often help mitigate both the severity of the charges and the long-term impact of those charges.
At Quinnan Law, we have extensive experience helping parents and juveniles navigate the juvenile justice system to achieve the best possible outcomes for a family. To learn more about how we can help your case, please contact us today for a free consultation.
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