All accusations against minors under 18 for illegal offenses are initiated in the county juvenile court. The juvenile law system recognizes the differences between children and adults by focusing more attention on the well-being and rehabilitation of a minor.
Jury trials do not occur in juvenile court. Instead, if the case goes to trial, the trial court judge will decide whether the child is guilty or not guilty of the crime charged.
In any given year, more than 100,000 juveniles — people 17 years of age or younger — are arrested in Texas or referred to the juvenile probation system. Anytime a minor child is arrested and charged with a crime it could have devastating consequences in his or her future.
Whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony, the charge should be taken seriously. A minor still could face harsh penalties for an offense, including a driver’s license suspension and probation.
Attorney for Juvenile Defense in San Antonio, TX
When a child is accused of illegal activity, an advocate can provide guidance through the often confusing and frightening juvenile justice system in Bexar County, TX. The juvenile defense attorneys at Goldstein & Orr have extensive experience helping children and their parents understand and protect their rights within juvenile court.
We have represented young people on a wide variety of juvenile charges, from misdemeanor possession of marijuana to more serious charges like burglary and sex offenses. We represent minors at detention hearings, trials, and appeals held under Texas juvenile law.
For young people who are eligible, we can pursue record sealing so their case does not come back to haunt them after they have reached adulthood. The attorneys at Goldstein & Orr represent clients throughout the greater San Antonio area.
Contact us to discuss the accusations against your child. Call (210) 226-1463 today for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case.
Information Center for Juvenile Defense
- Alcohol-Related Juvenile Charges in Texas
- Common Juvenile Property Crimes
- Possible Penalties for Juvenile Offenses in Texas
- Fighting Efforts to Try Children as an Adult
Alcohol-Related Juvenile Charges in Texas
Texas law prohibits the possession of alcohol by any person under the age of 21. Young people who commit alcohol violations can be fined, ordered to perform community service or even sentenced to jail time or probation. Criminal alcohol violations also can result in the young person being suspended or expelled from school or sent to an alternative education program.
Common offenses related to alcohol violations include the underage possession of alcohol, under age 21 DWI, public intoxication and possession of a fake ID. Certain underage alcohol-related offense come with a license suspension for the following period:
- 30 days for a first offense;
- 60 days for a second offense; and
- 180 days for a third offense.
Public Intoxication – This is a Class C misdemeanor that prohibits a person from appearing in a public place while under the influence of alcohol to the degree that the person is a danger to himself or to other people.
Possession of a Fake ID – It is a Class C misdemeanor for a minor to present any documents that incorrectly indicates he or she is 21 years or older to any person selling or serving alcohol.
Juvenile DWI – In Texas, it is illegal to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When that is committed by a person younger than 21 years old, it is considered a juvenile DWI, or an underage DWI. This offense is generally punishable as a Class C misdemeanor, which can result in a fine up to $500. However, subsequent juvenile DWIs can result in increased penalties.
Common Juvenile Property Crimes
Arson – Starting a fire intentionally or causing an explosion with the intent to damage another person’s property constitutes arson. Under limited circumstances, arson can be charged when it is alleged that the conduct of starting a fire or cause an explosion was done in a reckless manner with a disregard of safety of another person’s property or safety.
Criminal Mischief – Criminal mischief involves intentionally damaging or destroying another’s property. The penalties and punishments for criminal mischief depend on the value of the damaged property and the type of property that is damaged.
Classifications range from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. The law allows, under certain circumstances, for the damages to be aggregated so that several smaller offenses can result in more serious charges. Any act of criminal mischief at a school can be charged as a felony.
Graffiti – One of the most common types of property crimes charged in juvenile court involves graffiti. This offense is set out separately from criminal mischief, although both involved damage to another person’s property. Graffiti is defined to include marking or painting on the property of another without the owner’s permission.
The penalties for graffiti are more serious than similar offense charged under the criminal mischief statute. The penalties and punishments depend on the amount of damage caused and range from a Class B misdemeanor to first-degree felony. Texas law provides for a one year suspension of the driver’s license or ability to get a driver’s license if the child is convicted of a graffiti offense. Many communities have a graffiti abatement program.
Criminal Trespass – Criminal Trespass is defined as entering the property of another without the owner’s permission. Vandalism is a broad term that covers arson, criminal mischief, and graffiti. Each of these forms of vandalism is considered a property crime, and each has consequences that reflect the seriousness of the offense.
Criminal trespass is property crime that is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. It involves an accusation of entering the property of another without the owner’s consent. Criminal trespass can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor if it is alleged that a deadly weapon was carried or the property entered is a person’s home.
Reckless Damage – Texas law provides for the criminal offense or reckless damage or destruction. This Class C misdemeanor involves an allegation of a conduct committed knowingly, with a consciously disregards for a substantial and unjustifiable risk that destruction or damage to the property of another person will occur.
Possible Penalties for Juvenile Offenses in Texas
If a juvenile is adjudicated guilty of an offense by a judge or jury, he or she will have a disposition hearing where the minor could be sentenced to any of the following possible penalties:
- Confinement to the Texas Youth Commission for felony juvenile offenses
- A driver’s license suspension or loss of driving privileges
- Up to 500 hours of community service
- Substance abuse treatment
- Payment of court costs and supervision fees
- Probation in his or her home, possibly until the 18th birthday
- Probation in a foster home, possibly until the 18th birthday
- Probation in a public or private institution or agency, possibly until the 18th birthday
When a juvenile offender is adjudicated of a criminal offense, he or she likely will receive a criminal record. This alone could have severe consequences in the future. This record is generally kept confidential, except in certain situations. However, a juvenile may be eligible to have his or her record sealed in some instances.
Fighting Efforts to Try Children as Adults
If the state wishes to try a child as an adult, it will initiate certification proceedings in the juvenile court. Once a case is certified as an adult criminal matter, the interests of the minor defendant no longer will be given as much prominence in the court’s decisions as would be the case under juvenile law. Early intervention by a criminal defense attorney is key in these cases. Our attorneys will help you oppose the prosecution’s efforts to try a child as an adult.
Texas Juvenile Justice Department — The TJJD was created on December 1, 2011, when the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC) were abolished. The rules for TJJD are published under Title 37, Part 11 of the Texas Administrative Code.
2016 Juvenile Justice Handbook – Learn more about juvenile justice in Texas by using this practical reference guide only available on the Attorney General’s website. The handbook on juvenile justice explains the state and local agencies and officials who implement the law and described the system from the point when a child is first reported to law enforcement authorities, through intake, adjudication, disposition, and the imposition of the court’s order.
Texas Criminal Justice Coalition — The TCJC identifies real problems and solutions facing minor children in the Texas juvenile justice system. This non-profit organization is focused on advancing a more accountable and transparent system that lowers dependence on incarcerating children. Recognizing that criminal behavior is often driving by mental health disorders and substance abuse, the organization advocates for addressing public health issues outside of the criminal justice system.
City of San Antonio Municipal Court — The Municipal Court for the City of San Antonio has jurisdiction over all juveniles charged with any Class C misdemeanor offenses except public intoxication. The young person must appear in open court with a percent or guardian. If the child fails to appear, then the child can face additional charges for that failure to appear. Additionally, the court can often suspend the driver’s license of the young person for failing to appear or failing to pay the fine until the young person appears in court to resolve the case.
Juvenile Probation Department of Bexar County — The probation department works under the Juvenile Board. After a law enforcement officer brings a child to the Bexar County Detention Center then a probation officer makes an initial intake determination of whether the child should immediately be released to the parents or detained. Young people are also referred to the department after a finding of delinquent conduct that requires supervision on probation or under a Deferred Prosecution contract.
Finding a Juvenile Defense Lawyer in Bexar County, TX
If your child is under investigation for any criminal offense, contact a Bexar County criminal defense attorney at Goldstein & Orr to discuss the case. We represent young people charged with crimes throughout San Antonio, Bexar County and the surrounding areas in Texas.
Call (210) 226-1463 for a free consultation.
This article was last updated on Friday, November 17, 2017.