Pennsylvania Juvenile Crimes Lawyer
Get answers to your questions by calling an experienced juvenile defense lawyer
It’s a scary call. Your child has been arrested for a crime. You’ll have immediate questions. What are my child’s rights? What are my rights as a parent? How does a juvenile case differ from an adult case? What can happen to my son or daughter? Can a determination of guilt affect my child’s ability to graduate, to go to college, or to obtain a job?
At Statt Law, our Central PA juvenile defense lawyers are ready to answer your questions. We’ll explain how the juvenile court system works. We’ll explain that in many cases where your child doesn’t have a prior arrest and the offense doesn’t involve violence – that a solution can be found. Solutions in juvenile cases focus on understanding and treatment more than blame and punishment. In serious cases, we’ll work to keep the case in juvenile court and work to avoid a transfer to the adult court.
What are the common types of offenses juveniles commit in Pennsylvania?
Some of the many different types of criminal offenses teenagers under 18 and even younger children may commit are:
- Underage drinking. In Pennsylvania, it’s a criminal offense for anyone under 21 to consume or buy alcohol.
- Fake IDS. In order to purchase alcohol, juveniles often create or buy fake IDS. Using a fake ID to buy alcohol or cigarettes or other unauthorized products is a crime.
- Vandalism. Children often act out in destructive ways. When they destroy any property that belongs to another or to the public, they can be charged with vandalism. Painting graffiti at a railway station, bathroom walls, or anywhere – is a crime – unless the graffiti is part of a supervised program.
- Theft. Taking property from another person or a retail store is a crime. Any type of theft from shoplifting to stealing a classmate’s computer can lead to juvenile criminal charges.
- Disorderly conduct and assault. Getting into a fight is a common reason your child might be charged with disorderly conduct or assault. Attacking an adult anywhere will lead to assault charges.
- Marijuana possession. While medical marijuana may be permissible for adults and minors, generally, a minor found in possession of marijuana will be charged with violating Pennsylvania law.
- Curfew violations. Some locations have curfew laws for minors. If your child is out at night beyond the legal time limit, he/she can be charged with a juvenile offense.
- Speeding and other traffic offenses. Minors must have approved permits to drive. Whether they have their license or not – if your child violates any traffic law, your child can be charged with a juvenile offense.
- DUI. If your child drinks and drives, he/she can be charged with a juvenile crime. While the blood alcohol content level for adults is .08, if your child has any trace of alcohol (.02 or more) in his/her system, then your child could be charged with a DUI.
- Truancy. Children 17 and under are required to attend school. If your child fails to attend school without a valid excuse or for an extended period of time, your child could be forced to answer to a juvenile judge.
What are the punishments and treatments for juveniles in the juvenile court system?
There are many different factors the juvenile courts consider when deciding your child’s fate. In severe cases, your child’s case may be transferred to an adult court.
In most cases, the aim of the juvenile system is to help your child and to focus on the reasons why he/she may have committed the offense. A main goal is to ensure your child doesn’t get into trouble again and that there are some consequences for his/her misbehavior.
The prosecutor and judge will review the needs of your child, any prior incidents, the type of offense, and the danger your child may pose to others and to the public.
You and your child do have the right to assert that your child did not commit the offense that led to juvenile charges. If the prosecution and the judge are satisfied that your child wasn’t involved (there is no jury in a juvenile case), then the juvenile charges will be dismissed.
Otherwise, there are several possible outcomes for your child’s juvenile case. Our skilled juvenile lawyers work to obtain acquittals first. Otherwise, we work to negotiate resolutions that help your child while protecting the public. The juvenile court system does not make a finding of guilt or innocence of a crime. The court will make a finding as to whether your child is “delinquent.”
What is a juvenile probation order in Pennsylvania?
A judge often orders juvenile probation to help address a child’s delinquency so he/she won’t get into trouble as an adult. The order is in the form of a consent decree. It’s usually reached by agreement with the parents, the lawyer for the juvenile, the prosecution, and the judge. A juvenile probation order/ consent decree usually provides that the child:
- Can stay at home – with his/her parent or guardian
- Must attend any counseling including drug or alcohol counseling that is ordered
- Pay any restitution – for example, the value of any stolen or damaged items
- Pay the court costs
- Abide by a curfew
- Perform some type of community service
- Learn new skills or complete school
The child’s personal associations may be restricted.
In some cases, the charges may be dropped if the child completes the terms of the juvenile probation order. An experienced juvenile defense lawyer will work to expunge your child’s juvenile record.
What is residential placement or juvenile detention?
If the crime is too serious or the child’s background is problematic, the judge could order that a child be placed in a:
- Juvenile residential treatment center
- Juvenile detention center
- Juvenile boot camp
The placement may end if the child shows progress. Otherwise, the child may be confined until he/she is 18-years-old.
How does a juvenile record affect your child?
Generally, a juvenile offense should not count as a prior offense if your child is convicted of an adult crime.
A juvenile offense could affect your child’s right to:
- Be admitted to a college
- Join the military
- Obtain certain jobs
- Eligibility for government benefits
- Own a gun
In some cases, a juvenile may need to register as a sex offender.
Can a juvenile be tried as an adult?
In some cases, a juvenile can be tried as an adult – after a court hearing. The judge will review a variety of issues including:
- The age of the child
- The nature of the offense
- The possibility for rehabilitation of the child
- The danger posed to the public
Children may be charged as adults if:
- The crime is murder
- The child is 15 or older and the child used a deadly weapon or had been previously charged with a serious crime such as rape, robbery, or aggravated assault.
Speak with a respected Pennsylvania juvenile defense lawyer
At Statt Law, our caring juvenile defense lawyers have the experience and skills to help defend your child’s rights while also negotiating consent decrees that help your child move forward. We work with counselors who are experienced in child behavior. To speak with an experienced Harrisburg juvenile lawyer, call us at: (717) 537-0928 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment.
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