Juvenile System in America

The criminal justice system for juveniles in every State in the United States is different than adults charged with a crime. Usually, the standards and penalties are different, and these juvenile cases are typically filed in the respective counties Juvenile Court. In the eyes of the law, a juvenile or a minor, is any person under the legal adult age. This age varies from state to state, but in most states, the District of Columbia, and in all Federal Districts, any person age 18 or younger is considered a juvenile. In several states, such as New York, Connecticut, and North Carolina, a juvenile is age 16 or less, and in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, a juvenile is age 17 or less. Wyoming is the only state that has established the age of juveniles to be 19 or younger.

As well as having upper age limits, juvenile jurisdictions also have lower age limits. Most states specify that prior to age six or seven, juveniles lack mens rea, or otherwise known as criminal intent. At this young age, juveniles also are thought to lack the ability to tell right from wrong. Usually, the age of the offender refers to the age of the offender at the time the offense was committed, but in some states, age refers to the offender’s age at the time of apprehension. This arrangement allows for the sometimes lengthy periods it takes to clear a case.

One’s status as a juvenile or as an adult is pertinent for the court’s determination of the jurisdiction under which an offender falls: the adult or the juvenile court system. If it is decided that a juvenile will be tried in a juvenile court, most states allow the juvenile to remain under that jurisdiction until the defendant’s 21st birthday. In many circumstances when a crime is egregious, it is possible for a juvenile to be charged as an adult. This is typically the case in many murder cases.

Relying on age as a sole determinant for adulthood has been criticized by many criminologists and policy makers since individuals develop at different rates. Some youth are far more mature at 18 years of age than some adults are. Because of this discrepancy, juvenile court judges have been given broad discretion to waive juveniles to adult court for trial and sentencing. In rare situations, the courts also have the power to emancipate a juvenile in a civil proceeding so that he or she becomes an adult under the law and is granted certain adult privileges. For example, if a 17-year-old loses both parents and has no other living relatives, he or she could be emancipated in order to pursue custody of his or her younger siblings.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

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The Arrest

Upon an arrest, the very first question the arreste will ask is how he or she can get out of jail expeditiously. Several things must happen before a jail facility can release an individual from jail. The process typically involves a “booking” process and a bail hearing that determines whether the person arrested may be released pending trial and set the bail amount. Once the accused has “posted bail” themselves or through a bail bond agent they are released.

An arrest occurs when a person has been taken into police custody and is no longer free to leave or move about after a crime has been committed or after a police investigation. When and how an arrest takes place is very important. Obviously, someone who has been handcuffed and read their rights knows they have been arrested, but not everyone who is arrested is handcuffed or explicitly told that they are under arrest. Whether or not the proper procedure is followed may determine the admissibility of evidence or even result in the case being dropped.

After an arrest a police officer will begin the “booking” process. This is an administrative process in which the police collect the suspect’s personal information and organize evidence relating to the alleged crime. The officer will record evidence, observations and statements about the alleged crime, fingerprint and photograph the suspect, conduct a criminal background check, collect the suspect’s personal property for storage until release, and place the suspect in a holding cell. This is called the discovery process, and all of the “discovery” is given to the respective criminal defense attorney who represents the defendant.

Soon after the booking, within 24 hours, a defendant is entitled to a bail hearing. The purpose of bail is to ensure that an individual accused of a crime that is released into the community will willingly return for future court hearings and not commit new crimes, intimidate victims and witnesses, or flee to another jurisdiction. Those accused of minor crimes may simply be cited and released, but all others arrested and charged with crimes will have an opportunity to argue for their release at a bail hearing.

At the bail hearing a judge examines the alleged crime, the accused’s criminal background, contacts within the community, financial resources, and length of residence in order to determine whether releasing the suspect would pose a threat to the safety of the community and whether the suspect is likely to appear at future hearings. Someone who poses a threat to the community may be held without bail. Likewise, someone who is a flight risk may be held without bail. Concerns about these and other factors also impact the amount of bail required.

More serious crimes typically result in a higher bail amount. Wealthy individuals may also face higher bail amounts to ensure that the bond represents a significant amount to the party paying. On the other hand, if the alleged crime is not serious, the accused can show evidence that they pose no risk to the community, and are likely to appear at future court hearings they may be released “on personal recognizance” without having to post bail.

 

Other conditions may be placed upon release including limits on travel, court ordered drug and alcohol abstinence or testing, periodic checks by an authority and restrictions on contact with victims or witnesses.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

The RCW

All crimes in the State of Washington are enumerated in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). These codes define what a crime is, lay out the elements of each crime and, in many cases, provide sentencing guidelines for the specific criminal act. Crimes are divided into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. The less serious offenses are known as misdemeanors, and are further divided into simple misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. All misdemeanor cases are heard in Municipal and District Courts; and the Court is determined by the law enforcement agency that conducts the investigation and the Prosecutors office assigned to the particular jurisdiction. The more serious offenses are known as a felony. Felonies are categorized into classes A, B, or C in descending order of seriousness. All felony cases are heard in the Superior Court of the particular county the crime is alleged to have occurred.

A misdemeanor is often regarded as a minor criminal offense. Examples of simple misdemeanors include disorderly conduct, driving while license suspended in the third degree and solicitation of a prostitute. A simple misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. A gross misdemeanor is a much more serious offense. Driving while under the influence of alcohol/drugs is a gross misdemeanor as well as an assault in the 4th degree charge and theft in the 3rd degree. These offenses carry penalties of up to one year in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Some misdemeanors such as a driving under the influence offense carry mandatory punishments per the RCW. Penalties often depend on the nature of the offense, any aggravating factors involved, and the prior criminal history of the offender.

Felony crimes are much more serious than misdemeanors. A felony crime includes offenses such offenses as murder, robbery, rape, burglary, and sales or distribution of illegal drugs. Class A felonies are the most serious offenses and are punishable by prison sentences which can include life, as well as fines of up to $50,000. Class B felonies carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. Class C felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

The Washington State sentencing guidelines further classifies each felony crime by assigning specific standard ranges for each charge. These standard ranges are used to determine the amount of time a defendant could be incarcerated for if convicted of a particular felony charge. Fifteen seriousness levels exist from Level I to Level XV which carry corresponding sentencing ranges for each level. At the time of sentencing on a felony charge, a pre-sentence report is typically required by the respective sentencing judge who makes the final determination of the exact sentence that the defendant will receive. These pre-sentence reports often time include information such as criminal, family, and employment history, psychological assessments, statements from victims, and often times will include each parties recommendation to the Court of what they believe would be a fair and just sentence.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.