Juvenile Law

Hopkins Law LLC has an accomplished background in child and family services. Our experience includes an in-depth knowledge of child-family investigations, guardian ad litem representation, and juvenile defense. Our focus on the client and a collaborative process is particularly beneficial here. We approach all these cases with understanding and compassion, knowing they can be stressful times for the family.

Determining If You Need A Juvenile Defense Attorney

Children often need the assistance of a juvenile attorney. However they rarely have the life experience to recognize the necessity for a juvenile attorney or the resources to hire one. Determining when your child needs a juvenile defense attorney is one of the most important parenting decisions you will ever make. There are several situations where children require the protection of an attorney. One of the most important and most common is the juvenile delinquency process.

Juvenile Justice & Juvenile Rights

For criminal justice purposes, a juvenile is any child under the age of 18. When a child is charged with a crime it is called “delinquency”. Children have constitutional rights just like adults. (You should refer to our felony and misdemeanor pages for a discussion of how to protect your child’s constitutional rights during an investigation or following charges). Otherwise, the delinquency process is very different from the adult misdemeanor or felony process – both procedurally and in its objectives. The process of determining if a child is delinquent is called “adjudication”.

In the juvenile justice system, the adjudicatory process emphasizes rehabilitation. It offers a wide range of options aside from the standard criminal prosecution. There is not a special list of crimes that can only be committed by children. Instead, any adult crime can be charged against a child in juvenile court. The most significant difference between adult court and juvenile court is that juvenile penalties generally emphasize rehabilitation and treatment. However, penalties may include detention, which is jail for children. A finding of delinquency has serious implications for any child and their family. Further, depending on the crime with which your child is charged, the district attorney may be able to place the case in adult court. This action could lead to much more serious penalties. If your child is charged with a crime do not hesitate to contact a juvenile defense lawyer.

Stages of a Juvenile Delinquency Case

  • TEMPORARY CUSTODY – A juvenile may be taken into custody for the violation of any federal or state law – also for the violation of any county or municipal ordinance. A child should not be detained longer than it takes to obtain identification info and contact the parents. Normally, a juvenile should then be released to the parents. However, a child charged with what amounts to a felony involving weapons or violence will be held in detention pending a detention screening. Temporary custody does not initiate criminal charges against a child. By itself, it does not result in a criminal record.

    Statements made to police by a child are not admissible unless a parent or guardian is present. In addition, the parent/guardian must have been advised of the child’s constitutional rights (right to remain silent, right to counsel during interrogation, right to have counsel appointed). This does not apply to a non-custodial statement (see the discussion on the felony and misdemeanor pages). There are exceptions to this rule, but generally, unless you waive your child’s rights in a signed written statement, your child’s statements cannot be used against them.

    If the child is not released by the police, a detention screening is conducted by a screening team – persons appointed by the court in each judicial district. A determination is made on whether the child should be released to the family or detained pending a detention hearing. If detention is recommended, the court must hold a detention hearing within 48 hours (not including weekends and holidays) unless there is a good cause for a longer period of time. At the detention hearing, the court will determine whether it is necessary to continue to hold the child. The court may release the child with conditions or place the child in further detention.

    If the court orders further detention, the district attorney must file a petition within 72 hours. It states the allegations and supporting facts on how the child is delinquent. This will result in formal charges and the possibility of a criminal record. Significantly, the district attorney has the option to request an “informal adjustment” instead of proceeding with formal delinquency charges. An informal adjustment means that the child will undergo rehabilitative measures without formal charges on their record. This option is not available to juveniles who have already undergone an informal adjustment or who have been charged with delinquency in the previous 12 months.

  • DIVERSION – Diversion is an option to the court throughout the adjudicatory process. The court may order the child into a diversion program either prior to the filing of the delinquency petition, prior to the adjudication of the charges, or during the disposition following adjudication. Generally, diversion entails participation in a rehabilitative regimen specifically designed to meet the child’s needs. However, entering a diversion program requires that your child admit guilt for the original charges. Upon successful completion of diversion, the juvenile record will be expunged. But failure to complete diversion or new charges while still in diversion will result in the re-filing of the delinquency petition.
  • ADVISEMENT HEARING – Following the filing of the delinquency petition, the court will hold a hearing and advise the juvenile and his/her guardian of their rights – right to preliminary hearing, right to jury trial, right to bail, etc. Counsel should be requested and appointed at the hearing. Importantly, a jury trial must be requested or it will be waived. You should request a jury trial as soon as your child pleads not guilty.
  • PRELIMINARY HEARING – If the charges qualify as a felony or class 1 misdemeanor, a preliminary hearing may be requested by the defense or by the district attorney to determine if probable cause exists for the charges. The hearing must be requested in writing within 10 days of the advisement hearing. A trial will be scheduled if probable cause is found and dismissed if not found.
  • ADJUDICATORY TRIAL – The judge or jury determines whether evidence supports delinquency beyond a reasonable doubt. A finding of “not guilty” will result in dismissal and release from detention. A finding of “guilty” will result in immediate sentencing or the scheduling of sentencing at a later date.
  • SENTENCING – The court hears evidence to determine what type of sentence is in the best interest of society and the juvenile. Evidence may include social reports on the juvenile and anything that is helpful to the judge. Normally, a pre-sentencing investigation report is conducted by the probation department. The court may order out of home placement, grant a deferral of adjudication and place the juvenile offender on probation, or commit the juvenile offender to the Department of Youth Corrections – an agency that runs juvenile detention facilities in Colorado.
  • APPEAL – A request for judicial review of a delinquency order must be filed with the district court within 15 days from when you receive notice of the order. Otherwise, appeals follow appellate rules for adult cases.
  • EXPUNGMENT – Following the conclusion of some juvenile delinquency cases, it is possible to file a motion with the court requesting that a juvenile record be expunged. If the record is expunged it is treated as if the record never existed. This is definitely a remedy that you should pursue. Depending on the circumstances of the case, not all kids will qualify for expungement. The expungement statute is complex and the assistance of an attorney will definitely simplify the process for you.

A Note on Juvenile Criminal Records And Their Impact On Employment

Throughout the juvenile criminal process, it is important that your juvenile defense lawyer try to have the record expunged. If it is not, the juvenile offender will have more trouble gaining employment later in life. At Hopkins Law LLC we understand juvenile criminal records and their impact on employment and we work at every step of the process to limit the impact these proceedings will have on your child in his or her future.

Call Today For A Free Consultation

Our Northern Colorado family law firm offers free initial consultations to new clients. Please call us today at 970-624-6060.