If your child was arrested for an alleged sex crime, you’ll immediately be hit with a wide range of concerns. One of the first is whether the case will proceed through Virginia’s juvenile court system, or if your child will be prosecuted as an adult. You may also wonder about the implications for your child’s future, especially considering school discipline and the possibility of sex offender registration. At the same time, you’re probably angry and frustrated at your child for using poor judgment.
While you should take responsible action regarding discipline at home, another key responsibility as a parent is ensuring your child has skilled legal representation at this time. Because the initial phases of the criminal and/or juvenile process are critical, retaining an experienced Virginia juvenile crimes defense lawyer is a top priority. You should also keep in mind some important points about these cases.
Know that You Have Rights: In Virginia, there are specific rules regarding when and how a child may be taken into custody for engaging in criminal activity. There are also laws governing additional phases of the juvenile process, so you should be aware of your rights and those of your child. For instance:
- For some sex crimes allegations, police can immediately take your child into custody. If this is the case, your child is entitled to a detention hearing within 72 hours. The purpose of this proceeding is to determine whether he or she should remain in custody. Your child has the right to retain an attorney and the right to remain silent.
- As a parent, you’re entitled to notice of the detention hearing.
- Your child has multiple rights at the adjudicatory hearing stage for determining delinquency – i.e., whether your child is guilty of a juvenile offense. Through counsel, your child can call and subpoena witnesses for testimony and cross-examination. He or she also has a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Understand Juvenile Transfer Hearings: In some cases, your child’s case will proceed according to Virginia’s statute on transfer hearings, which refers to charging a minor as an adult – essentially, transferring the case from juvenile court to the circuit court. There are two ways this could happen in a juvenile case involving felony sex crimes:
- The juvenile court judge grants the prosecutor’s motion to charge your child as an adult through a discretionary transfer. When making the determination, a judge looks at the nature of the offense, prior criminal history, and whether your child could be rehabilitated through the juvenile process.
- In a case of Rape under the Virginia definition of the crime, the prosecutor has discretion to determine whether your child is transferred to adult court or remains in juvenile court.
Be Prepared for Potential Penalties: Through the juvenile court process, the punishment for your child is typically far less than being transferred. Penalties may involve community service, fines, and additional detention, which is why your goal should be keeping the case in the juvenile process. In an adult court, the punishments are severe, including jail time and the requirement to register as a sex offender.
Your Family Can Count on a Virginia Juvenile Crimes Defense Attorney
As you can see, you put your child’s rights and future at risk if you don’t get legal representation immediately after he or she is charged with a sex crime. Our team at Leary Law, P.C. has extensive experience handling juvenile cases, including those involving allegations of sex offenses. We’ll seek to obtain the best possible outcome, whether we’re working on a dismissal, reduction of the charges, or other resolution to the case. To learn how we can help, please contact set up a consultation at our offices in Manassas or Fairfax, VA.