If a crime is committed by someone under 18 years old in Arizona, then the case is handled by the Juvenile Justice system. Unlike the adult Criminal Justice System, the focus in these courts is rehabilitation, not punishment. Some common crimes that juveniles are charged with are theft, simple assault, drug abuse, disorderly conduct, curfew violations, truancy, runaway, marijuana possession, shoplifting, burglary, vandalism, underage drinking and DUI, arson, gun crime, and gang-related activity.
When Juvenile Cases Are Moved to Arizona Adult Courts
In very rare circumstances, an Arizona juvenile case is direct filed to the adult courts. For example, juveniles between the age of 14 and 18 can be called to an adult court if they have been charged for certain violent felony offenses or sexual misconduct with a minor. Since the penalties given in the adult system are much harsher than the juvenile system, it is in your child’s best interest to have your lawyer fight to keep the case in the juvenile courts. Luckily, an Arizona law passed in May 2007 gave lawyers even more options for challenging a transfer into an adult court.
Differences between the Adult Justice System and the Juvenile Justice System
The juvenile system has a different vocabulary than the adult system. For example, a crime is called a delinquent act, sentencing is referred to as disposition, and incarceration is known as detention. Unlike the adult system, there are no juries. Instead, the case is decided by a judge.
When it comes time for disposition, there are often many alternatives to avoid incarceration in a youth detention facility, such as diversion programs. These programs may include psychological counseling, treatment for substance abuse, community service, restitution, and staying in school. A good juvenile defense attorney will work with the judge to try to get these options for your child.
Whatever the situation is for your child, to the best way to protect your child’s interests is to hire an experienced Arizona juvenile defense lawyer to help you with the case. And the sooner the better, since the Juvenile Justice System tends to work faster than the adult Criminal Justice System. You want to look for someone who has specific experience working in the juvenile justice system because it works differently than the adult courts. He or she will have a better understanding of how to find a solution that’s best for your child and avoid having the case moved to adult court if possible. Together, you can examine the case against your child and prepare a strong defense.
Contrary to popular belief, a juvenile case may be accessible during future background checks and criminal records searches. Juvenile records are not automatically expunged or removed when the child turns 18 years of age. Instead, the record is available to the State if the individual find himself arrested as an adult.
Underage Drinking and Driving in Arizona
One of the common crimes that is handled in juvenile court is a DUI charge for those under 21. Arizona has a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving, so if your child has any alcohol in his or her system while operating a vehicle, it can lead to a driver’s license suspension for 2 years or until turning 21 years old. If your child was involved in an accident while under the influence, the penalties are even more severe and can result in a permanent criminal record.
Get Arizona Legal Guidance as Soon as Possible
If your child has been arrested, it is in your best interest to employ a knowledgeable Arizona juvenile defense attorney to not only defend your child’s rights in court but also to be there when your child is answering police questions. It is always risky to answer questions from the police without your lawyer present, since cops are trained to get the information they need to convict. Juveniles are even more vulnerable to their questioning methods than adults, so you want someone with legal knowledge in the room to monitor the line of questioning.
An Arizona juvenile offense is a serious issue with consequences that can affect your child’s life for years to come, and your child deserves to have a quality legal defense from an experienced Arizona juvenile defense lawyer.