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Juvenile Court

Violation of law by juvenile children younger than the age of 17 are referred to the Juvenile Court. All children must be represented by an attorney. If the child's family cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed. It is important to have a trusted guide in Juvenile Court.

This court deals with many, many different types of cases - criminal, dependency and neglect, parentage, status offenses, foster care, abortion, medical treatment, custody, parental rights, visitation, child support, school attendance and more. Juvenile Courts have exclusive jurisdiction in proceedings involving minors alleged to be delinquent, unruly, dependent and neglected. The one thing that they have in common is that a child is involved.

Basic Juvenile Court Procedures:

  • Adjudication Hearing: A hearing to determine whether or not the child committed the alleged conduct.

  • Disposition Hearing: Upon a true finding that the child committed the conduct, this hearing will determine what consequences the court will assess.

  • Probation: The child may be released under the supervision of the Juvenile Probation Office. The child will obey all supervision terms or face detention.

  • Detention: In serious cases, the court may order the child detained for a length of time at local facilities or a facility of the Texas Youth Commission.

Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over persons less than 17 years old when alleged conduct occurred; but no jurisdiction after 18th birthday regardless of age when conduct occurred. Juvenile court may waive jurisdiction and transfer to adult court any juvenile 14+ and accused of a serious felony; and, juvenile court may waive jurisdiction and transfer to adult court any juvenile 15+ and accused of a serious felony. Prior to transfer, juvenile court must conduct a hearing and consider factors and make findings.

The Juvenile Court has a number of options in dealing with children who are delinquent or who have been abused or neglected. Options include:

  • Returning the child to the parents’ custody with probationary conditions
  • Assessment of fines
  • Ordering parents to provide necessary support
  • Putting the child in the custody of the Division of Family Services for placement in a group home or a foster family
  • Requiring the juvenile to perform community service
  • Ordering the juvenile to make restitution to crime victims
  • In cases of serious criminal offenses, detention of the juvenile in a juvenile detention facility up to the age of 21

The Family Code provides that a child has a right to counsel “at every stage of proceedings.”  Further, the Family Code provides that the right to counsel cannot be waived in specified proceedings, including the following: certification of child to be considered an adult, pleas of guilty, matters dealing with mental illness or mental retardation, and probation revocation matters, and proceedings in which commitment to  the Texas Youth Commission is sought.

A child is a person who is ten years of age or older and under 17 years of age at the time of the conduct. If a child is taken into custody by the police, by law the child must have a detention hearing within 48 hours from the time he or she is taken into custody.  At this initial hearing, a judicial determination of probable cause is made.  This initial hearing cannot be waived.  If the child is detained further, the next detention hearing must be made before the tenth working day after the initial detention order.  Subsequent detention hearings must be held every 10-15 working days, unless waived.

It is important for the child to remain silent regarding the offense, as any statement made may be used against the child at a later time.  This is true of information given at the intake stage and at the “social history” appointment as well. There is no legally recognized parent-child confidential relationship which protects your child from your testimony at a juvenile trial.

Your child may invoke his or her constitutional right to remain silent and to counsel,  just as any adult may.   Such right does not encompass non-incriminating information, such as name, parents’ names and residence, residence of child, school, work, and other identifying information.  There is no duty for a police officer or an intake officer to require the presence of a parent or guardian before speaking with a child.  A request by a child to see a parent prior to an interrogation is NOT the legal equivalent of requesting counsel.

The sole purpose of a detention hearing is to determine whether a child should be detained or released to a parent or guardian.  The legal presumption is that the child should be released.  The child is to be released unless one or more of the five grounds for detention is found to exist:

  • the child is likely to abscond or be removed from the jurisdiction of the court;
  • suitable supervision, care or protection for the child is not being provided by a parent, guardian, custodian, or other person;
  • the child has no parent, guardian, custodian, or other person able to return him or her to the court when required;
  • he or she is accused of committing a felony offense and may be dangerous to himself or others if released; or
  • the child has previously been found to be a delinquent child or has previously been convicted of a penal offense punishable by a term in jail or prison and is likely to commit an offense if released.

Our goal is to get the case dismissed or get the sentence reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.  We understand how tragic it is for a child to have a felony conviction at an early age.  If your child already has a felony conviction, we can assist you in having those records sealed. Call The Sheena Law Firm to begin resolving your legal concerns today!

Danny M. Sheena, P.E.

The Sheena Law Firm
2500 West Loop South, Suite 518
Houston, Texas 77027
(713) 224-6508 - Office
(713) 225-1560 - Fax

Email: [email protected]


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