Sometimes, teenagers end up making serious mistakes because of their lack of ability to make sound judgments. They should not be punished in a way that their mistake follows them for the rest of their lives. If your child is being investigated or has been alleged to be delinquent you should act quickly in order to protect their future and freedom.
The Pittsburgh Criminal Law Group knows how difficult it can be for parents to defend their children who are alleged to be delinquent. Our attorneys work tirelessly to safeguard the rights of juveniles in court proceedings. We strive to convince judges to resort to alternative forms of justice if conviction is inevitable. You can rest assured that we will be there for your child every step of the way.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN JUVENILE AND ADULT COURT
The juvenile court system is very different from the adult court system. Juvenile court can be less formal and use language and terms that are different from the adult system. A child is not found guilty in Juvenile Court. If the child is found to have committed acts, which if charged as an adult, would constitute a crime, the child will be found to be delinquent. This can be confusing for parents and children entering the system for the first time. Additionally, the juvenile system has a set of goals that also differ from the adult system. The juvenile system in Pennsylvania is focused on community protection and accountability but mostly, it is focused on the rehabilitation of the child.
COMMON JUVENILE OFFENSES
There are certain offenses that are commonly seen in the juvenile system. The Pittsburgh Criminal Law Group has experience helping juveniles face and resolve these charges. Some of the common charges seen in juvenile court are:
- Alcohol Related Offenses
- Simple Assault
- Aggravated Assault
- Criminal Mischief
- Drug Charges, including Possession and Distribution
- Property Destruction
- Theft Offenses
- Underage Drinking
COMMON JUVENILE PENALTIES
As detailed above, the juvenile court system has different goals from the adult system. A greater emphasis is placed on rehabilitating juveniles. Thus, jail or prison penalties are not as common, although some juvenile cases may still result in time in a secured facility. Some of the following penalties are often employed in the juvenile court system:
- Community service
- House Arrest
- Revocation of Driver’s License or Driving Privileges
- Placement in a Secured Facility
- Substance Abuse Programs
BEING TRIED AS AN ADULT
Depending on the severity of the offenses, prosecutors may try to convince the juvenile court judge to try your child as an adult, which may lead to serious penalties. Pennsylvania has three primary ways in which a juvenile can be tried as an adult. These procedures are found at 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6355 and are summarized below:
First, a judicial waiver may be issued that sends your child to adult court and leads to him or her being tried as an adult. If your child is 14 or older and accused of a felony crime, a judge, after a hearing, may transfer the child to adult court. Also, if your child is 14 or older and accused of an offense involving a deadly weapon, he may be waived to adult court. Finally, if your child is 15 or older and has been previously adjudicated delinquent, she may be waived to adult court to face more serious penalties upon conviction.
Next, there is a statutory exclusion in Pennsylvania for the offense of murder. Therefore, no matter what the child’s age is, if he or she is charged with murder, he or she will be tried as an adult. Additional statutory exclusions exist for other serious offenses.
Finally, if the child was previously tried as an adult, he may be tried as an adult for any subsequent crimes.
If your child is facing charges, it is extremely important to act quickly if the court is considering trying your child as an adult. The experienced attorneys at the Pittsburgh Criminal Law Group know the law and will do everything they can to ensure your child is not unfairly or unjustly tried as an adult.
42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6355 Transfer to criminal proceedings
(a) General rule.– After a petition has been filed alleging delinquency based on conduct which is designated a crime or public offense under the laws, including local ordinances, of this Commonwealth, the court before hearing the petition on its merits may rule that this chapter is not applicable and that the offense should be prosecuted, and transfer the offense, where appropriate, to the division or a judge of the court assigned to conduct criminal proceedings, for prosecution of the offense if all of the following exist:
(1) The child was 14 or more years of age at the time of the alleged conduct.
(2) A hearing on whether the transfer should be made is held in conformity with this chapter.
(3) Notice in writing of the time, place, and purpose of the hearing is given to the child and his parents, guardian, or other custodian at least three days before the hearing.
(4) The court finds:
(i) that there is a prima facie case that the child committed the delinquent act alleged;
(ii) that the delinquent act would be considered a felony if committed by an adult;
(iii) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the public interest is served by the transfer of the case for criminal prosecution. In determining whether the public interest can be served, the court shall consider the following factors:
(A) the impact of the offense on the victim or victims;
(B) the impact of the offense on the community;
(C) the threat to the safety of the public or any individual posed by the child;
(D) the nature and circumstances of the offense allegedly committed by the child;
(E) the degree of the child’s culpability;
(F) the adequacy and duration of dispositional alternatives available under this chapter and in the adult criminal justice system; and
(G) whether the child is amenable to treatment, supervision or rehabilitation as a juvenile by considering the following factors:
(II) mental capacity;
(IV) the degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the child;
(V) previous records, if any;
(VI) the nature and extent of any prior delinquent history, including the success or failure of any previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the child;
(VII) whether the child can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court jurisdiction;
(VIII) probation or institutional reports, if any;
(IX) any other relevant factors; and
(iv) that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child is not committable to an institution for the mentally retarded or mentally ill.
(b) Chapter inapplicable following transfer.– The transfer terminates the applicability of this chapter over the child with respect to the delinquent acts alleged in the petition.
(c) Transfer at request of child.– The child may request that the case be transferred for prosecution in which event the court may order this chapter not applicable.
(d) Effect of transfer from criminal proceedings.– No hearing shall be conducted where this chapter becomes applicable because of a previous determination by the court in a criminal proceeding.
(e) Murder and other excluded acts.– Where the petition alleges conduct which if proven would constitute murder, or any of the offenses excluded by paragraph (2)(ii) or (iii) of the definition of “delinquent act” in section 6302 (relating to definitions), the court shall require the offense to be prosecuted under the criminal law and procedures, except where the case has been transferred pursuant to section 6322 (relating to transfer from criminal proceedings) from the division or a judge of the court assigned to conduct criminal proceedings.
(f) Transfer action interlocutory.– The decision of the court to transfer or not to transfer the case shall be interlocutory.
(g) Burden of proof.– The burden of establishing by a preponderance of evidence that the public interest is served by the transfer of the case to criminal court and that a child is not amenable to treatment, supervision or rehabilitation as a juvenile shall rest with the Commonwealth unless the following apply:
(1)(i) a deadly weapon as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2301 (relating to definitions) was used and the child was 14 years of age at the time of the offense; or
(ii) the child was 15 years of age or older at the time of the offense and was previously adjudicated delinquent of a crime that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult; and
(2) there is a prima facie case that the child committed a delinquent act which, if committed by an adult, would be classified as rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702(a)(1) or (2) (relating to aggravated assault), robbery as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3701(a)(1)(i), (ii) or (iii) (relating to robbery), robbery of motor vehicle, aggravated indecent assault, kidnapping, voluntary manslaughter, an attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of these crimes or an attempt to commit murder as specified in paragraph (2)(ii) of the definition of “delinquent act” in section 6302.
If either of the preceding criteria are met, the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that retaining the case under this chapter serves the public interest and that the child is amenable to treatment, supervision or rehabilitation as a juvenile shall rest with the child.