When a child gets arrested, it can be devasting for any parent. Juvenile offenses can be something as minor vandalism to something as serious as a violent offense or sex offense.
Although when it comes to criminal offenses, juveniles in Virginia are treated differently from adults, both in terms of potential for rehabilitation and level of responsibility, some juveniles can be tried as adults, and they can face serious penalties. Juvenile charges shouldn’t be taken lightly, and convictions of juvenile felonies can haunt children for a lifetime.
Having the right juvenile defense attorney in Virginia can make a huge difference in the outcome and a huge difference in your child’s future.
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice
A juvenile in Virginia is defined as any person younger than 18. Minors who have committed a crime or an act prohibited by federal law, Virginia criminal law, or a city or county ordinance will be prosecuted in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
In Virginia, the juvenile criminal justice system is separate from the adult court and has separate facilities for detention and specific programs geared toward children. The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice is the state agency that is responsible for administering the juvenile system. The rationale behind having an entirely separate system from the adult criminal court is a public policy decision that acknowledges children and adults may have different levels of culpability for criminal offenses.
Differences Between Juvenile Justice System and the Adult System
The Virginia juvenile system has different terminology than the adult criminal justice system. For example, the court refers to criminal charges against a juvenile as an “offense” as opposed to a “crime.” Furthermore, the police refer to arresting a juvenile as “taking into custody.” Where in adult court, the prosecutor will “file charges” in juvenile court its referred to as a “petition.” In addition, the juvenile justice system in Virginia refers to a trial as an “adjudicatory hearing.”
If a juvenile is convicted of an offense, the court will find the juvenile “delinquent” as opposed to “guilty.” Parole or probation is referred to as “aftercare.” While these euphemisms may soften how we talk about juvenile justice, the child in custody is essentially experiencing the same loss of liberty and restrictions as an adult.
The rules for juvenile proceedings in the Commonwealth of Virginia are governed by the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. In addition, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that juveniles have the right to counsel when charged with a crime in In re Gault—a case from 1967. Virginia court rules allow for juveniles to be detained in Virginia without a hearing for not more than 72 hours. That means an arrested child can be held for up to 72 hours before getting an opportunity to argue for release. In most instances, the hearing will occur the next day unless the court is not open (on a Sunday for instance).
Detention Hearings and Diversion
Some forms of diversion may exist in a Virginia juvenile case. For example, the court could take what’s called an “informal action” and send the child to a crisis shelter, treatment, or even counseling. This usually is available only to first offenders and sometimes the parents may also have to attend some type of educational training or program.
For a court to order a juvenile detained at the detention hearing, it must find that probable cause exists for a “serious crime” or that the juvenile violated some existing court-ordered conditions. In addition, the Commonwealth must put on evidence showing that there is a clear and substantial threat to the community, a clear and substantial threat of serious harm exists to the juvenile, the juvenile has previously threatened to run away from home, the juvenile has failed to show up for court, previously escaped detention, or is a fugitive.
Can a Juvenile Be Tried as an Adult?
Juveniles aged 14 or older might be tried as adults if they committed juvenile crimes that could be considered felonies if committed by adults. For that to occur, the judge at the juvenile court will determine after the hearing whether the juvenile crime meets the necessary criteria. Having a juvenile criminal defense attorney may be a smart move.
In most cases, juvenile criminal records are automatically destroyed once the juvenile turns 19 and at least five years have passed since the last hearing in their case. But, if a juvenile is tried as an adult and convicted of a juvenile crime that would most likely result in a felony conviction if committed by an adult, their criminal record remains public.
Contact Jay Mykytiuk Today
We understand it can be an extremely difficult time dealing with a child entangled in the juvenile criminal justice system and are standing by to help. Trial attorney and a criminal defense attorney for juveniles in Virginia, Jay P. Mykytiuk, has extensive experience representing juvenile offenders in Northern Virginia. If your child has been arrested or is under investigation, contact Jay P. Mykytiuk today for a full case evaluation.
The National Juvenile Defender Center, Virginia Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System
Supreme Court of Virginia, Court Rules
Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, Introduction to Juvenile Justice in Virginia