Our criminal defense law firm represents individuals in Pennsylvania charged with crimes and offenses ranging from simple possession of drugs and narcotics to violent felony crimes such as aggravated assault, robbery and homicide. While the majority of these cases involve representation of adults, our law firm has also represented minors in the juvenile justice system.
The most common juvenile offenses that our law firm has handled in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the following
- Assault, sexual assault and other violent crimes
- Bullying and cyberbullying
- Drug charges such as possession, manufacturing and intent to sell
- Gang activity, gang crimes and hate crimes
- Illegal search and seizure
- Juvenile DUI defense
- Juvenile sex crimes including sexting and offensive touching
- Minor in possession of alcohol and underage drinking
- Property crimes such as vandalism, theft, burglary and shoplifting
- School crimes
- Traffic violations
Juvenile Justice – Overview
The juvenile justice system isn’t the same as the adult criminal justice system and is often considered a less formal criminal court system. The goal of the juvenile system is supervision, care, and rehabilitation to ensure that the community in general is kept safe from harm, the perpetrator takes responsibility for his or her actions, and finally, to teach skills to allow the youth to become a productive member of society. While the system itself does focus on rehabilitation, it is important to understand that your son or daughter could end up in a detention facility away from your home in some situations. It is also important to understand that a juvenile record may make it difficult for your son or daughter to obtain future employment, attend college, receive financial aid, or even enter military service.
Generally, minors between the ages of 10-17 enter the juvenile justice system and not the adult criminal justice system. There are situations however where a child is accused of committing a serious criminal act, he or she may directly enter the adult criminal system or may be transferred by a judge to an adult criminal court. Read my article on decertification hearings
Following a child’s arrest, he or she is either detained or released to a guardian. If detained, there will be a hearing to determine whether he or she will remain in detention or be released. The court will schedule a hearing within 72 hours of detention and you should receive notice of that hearing in writing, over the phone, or in person. If you do not receive notice of the hearing you can provide an affidavit to your child’s probation officer stating that you were not notified. The court must then hold another hearing within 72 hours of receiving that affidavit.
The purpose of the detention hearing is to determine if your child should remain in custody. At these hearings the court must first decide if there is a reasonable basis that your child committed the crime and 2nd, whether your child must remain in detention to protect people or property in the community or to ensure their appearance at future hearings. The judge will also consider if less restrictive alternatives, such as electronic monitoring, are appropriate.
Detention Hearing Preparation
Prior to a detention hearing I always advise clients to consider other family members who would be willing to care for your child especially if you believe that there are reasons that the court may not allow them to return home. Next, make sure your child’s attorney is aware of any disabilities which may hinder your child’s ability to understand or communicate. Finally, make sure your attorney understands if your child receives any special education services. Provide a list of medications for medical conditions which may require treatment or monitoring if your child is detained.