A big part of growing up is learning from your mistakes. While parents and other role models can attempt to guide and keep a child safe and out of trouble, by the time a child enters middle or high school, peer pressure often trumps any such advice and, for some kids, mistakes and errors in judgment can have serious consequences.
Virginia's Juvenile Justice System
For parents who have a child that is accused of committing a criminal offense, it's important to understand how Virginia's juvenile justice system handles such matters.
In Virginia, individuals who are under the age of 18 are legally considered to be minors and are therefore subject to the rules and procedures of the state's juvenile justice system. It's important to note, however, that juveniles age 14 and older who face certain felony charges can be tried as adults.
When it comes to enforcement and punishment, much depends on the type and nature of the criminal offense. Decisions related to how a juvenile will be processed are made by a court intake officer who reviews the complaint against a juvenile to determine the appropriate course of action. For so-called minor and some first-time offenses, a juvenile may simply be issued a summons to appear in court and be sentenced to participate in some type of diversionary program. For more serious or subsequent offenses, a juvenile will go through the formal court intake process.
If a juvenile is formally charged and a petition is filed, he or she may either be released to a parent's custody or may be detained in a locked juvenile detention facility. Upon review, charges against a juvenile may be dismissed or the matter will move forward to an adjudicatory hearing where evidence in a juvenile's case is presented and his or her case decided.
Penalties For Juvenile Offenses
Juveniles who are found guilty of criminal offenses face a range of penalties including:
- Counseling and/or treatment program
- Placement in a residential facility
- Detainment in a juvenile correctional center
How An Attorney Can Help
The juvenile justice system is mired in complex processes and confusing procedural rules. If you are the parent of a juvenile who is facing legal action, attempting to successfully make sense of and navigate the system can be challenging and frustrating.
When something as important as your child's future is at stake, it's crucial to consult with a defense attorney who has experience successfully defending juveniles who are facing criminal charges.