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What to expect if your child is facing criminal charges

It is not uncommon for a teenager to get into a little trouble at some point. However, when things escalate from skipping school to more serious crimes, you might find yourself dealing with the juvenile criminal justice system in Prescott Valley. While you might be familiar with how the criminal justice system works for adults, it is quite different when it comes to juveniles.

If your child is facing criminal charges, it is important to understand how the system works so that you are not caught off guard during the process. Here are a few things you should know about the juvenile criminal justice system.

Juvenile court

In general, children between the age of seven and 15 are eligible for juvenile court. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, a child between the ages of 12 and 18 could be tried as adults. A child under the age of seven generally will not be tried in any court but the parents could be liable for the child's criminal acts.

Detention of a minor

In general, police officers have a great amount of discretion when it comes to taking a child into custody and referring him or her to juvenile court. Depending on the specific circumstances, a police officer might warn a juvenile about the consequences of committing a crime and simply release the minor.

Or, an officer might detain the juvenile until the parents arrive to take custody of the minor. A more serious infraction will generally result in a referral to the juvenile court. If this happens, an officer of the court, either the prosecutor or another juvenile court officer, will make the decision on whether to move forward with a case or dismiss it.

Informal judgments

The court officer might choose to handle the matter informally, but this still may require the minor to appear in the juvenile court. At the very least, the judge or court officer will probably lecture the minor about the incident. Other informal consequences could include an order for counseling, paying a fine or performing community service.

Formal charges

If the court officer or prosecutor chooses to file formal charges, then there will be an arraignment before a juvenile judge. Next, there will be a hearing where the juvenile court will either decide to claim jurisdiction for the case or try the minor as an adult.

The juvenile will then enter a plea which will propel the case to trial. Unlike adult court, a jury will not hear the case in juvenile court. Instead, there will probably be one hearing during which the prosecution will present evidence, the defense will argue its case and then the judge will determine guilt or innocence. If the judge concludes that the minor is guilty, then he or she will issue the sentence.

If your child is facing criminal charges as a minor, it is important to understand how the juvenile criminal justice system works so that you and your child are prepared. While the above information provides a general outline of what to expect, be sure to find out as much as you can so that you help your child receive a fair hearing.

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