The saying goes that the only constant in life is change, and it’s certainly true in the area of juvenile offenses. According to the Juvenile Justice Geography, Policy, Practice and Statistics, Virginia’s numbers have gotten comparatively worse than the US as a whole in several key areas, including total detained individuals and individuals in residential placement for violent crimes. While various factors could be contributing to these trends, there’s no doubt that the juveniles face a very different criminal justice system than previous generations. Where an offender would get a mere slap on wrist years ago, a larger percentage of criminal matters are going to court. Plus, the laws are holding minors directly responsible instead of their parents.
As such, it’s increasingly important to work with a Virginia juvenile crimes attorney if you or your child is involved in a criminal matter. A summary of the key laws and juvenile justice system may also be useful.
Overview of the Virginia Juvenile Justice System
People under 18 years of age may engage in criminal conduct, but the public policy of Virginia is to treat these individuals differently as compared to adults. Obviously, there’s still concern about public safety and individuals, but a separate system tends to decrease recidivism and emphasize rehabilitation.
Stages of a Juvenile Court Case
When a minor is accused of a crime, a juvenile court intake officer is assigned to the case. Depending on the offense, the juvenile’s history, and other factors, the officer may:
- Take informal action, such as referral to counseling or educational programs; or,
- Formally file a petition to process the case through the Virginia juvenile justice system.
If the juvenile court intake officer determines that formal action is necessary, there are additional proceedings. The first is an adjudicatory hearing to determine guilt, which is very similar to a criminal case involving an adult. The second is a disposition proceeding, where the presiding judge decides on sanctions after a finding of guilt. A juvenile could be detained, receive a fine, be required to pay restitution, or other punishment.
Collateral Consequences for Juvenile Offenders
In addition to any sanctions imposed through the juvenile justice system, there are other implications that may offenders don’t expect. Collateral consequences may follow you around long after completing the requirements of disposition or detention, such as:
- Driver’s license suspension or delay in getting a license;
- Ineligibility for grants or scholarships for secondary education;
- Not being admitted to the college of your choice because of a juvenile record;
- Disqualification for military service, law enforcement, or other public positions; and,
- Not being eligible to receive professional credentials and licenses.
Schedule a Consultation with a Virginia Juvenile Crimes Lawyer
For more information on your rights and potential defense tactics in a juvenile criminal case, please contact Leary Law, P.C. to speak with a member of our team. We can set up a consultation at our offices in Manassas or Fairfax, VA to review your circumstances and determine the best strategy to fight the charges.