The Juvenile System

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 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. Below you will key information about the background of juvenile justice laws.

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 criminal intent. At this young age, juveniles also are thought to lack the ability to tell right from wrong, or dolci incapax. 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.

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 Beginning of a Criminal Case

Whether it’s the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial or the Donald Trump Russia investigation, each day the media reports on high profile criminal trials and investigations that make for great TV drama. We watch movies and TV shows depicting intense, exaggerated trials but the beginning of a trial is often left off of the script. One may often wonder how charges are actually brought and what happens between the arrest and trial.

Although each State has its own procedures in bringing criminal charges against a criminal defendant, the most common way a criminal trial can start is through a document called the “information.” This document is written by the prosecutor and is somewhat similar to a complaint in a civil trial. After probable cause is found in the preliminary hearing, the information is filed. In it, the prosecutor describes what happened in a series of statements, and then shows how the defendant’s actions are crimes. The substance of the information can come from police reports and other documents produced through police investigation, but it can also come from complaints brought by citizens. In most states, a case may proceed to trial after felony or misdemeanor charges are brought by information. In the the federal system, a prosecutor can bring misdemeanor or felony charges by information (if a grand jury is waived).

Another way a criminal trial can start is by indictment through a grand jury. A prosecutor will review evidence gathered by the police and give that evidence to a jury. The jury will then decide if the defendants should go to trial. A prosecutor might choose this method if she is not sure she will succeed in a criminal trial, and considers the grand jury proceedings as a test trial. In the State of Washington, a grand jury system does not exist, except for in a Federal case.

The third way to bring criminal charges is the most straight forward. A police officer may see someone committing a minor crime, such as speeding, jaywalking, or littering, and write up a ticket, also known as a citation. Citations can only be used to charge someone with an infraction, which are minor cases compared to a criminal charge and are generally not punishable by prison. The person who receives the ticket has the opportunity to contest it, or can just pay a fine to end the proceedings.

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.