What Happens When a Minor or Juvenile Is Facing Criminal Charges?
Answers from a Criminal Defense Attorney Fairfax VA Offers
When a person under the age of 18 (in most states) has been charged with a crime, he or she will be required to go through the juvenile justice system. This is different from the criminal justice system that tries adults. As the parent of a child who was charged with a crime, you may be unsure about what to expect. A criminal defense attorney in Fairfax VA from Dave Albo – Attorney can review the circumstances of your child’s case and explain the legal process as it applies to the charges. We encourage you to call our office and request a free consultation with our criminal defense attorney to discover your child’s legal options.
The following information is a general overview about how the process, though exceptions may apply in your child’s case:
Detention of a Minor
Law enforcement officers have the choice as to whether or not a minor should be referred to the juvenile court system. Dave Albo is a criminal defense attorney in Fairfax VA who is very familiar with this. Although laws vary by state, an officer might:
- Detain the minor and warn him or her about the repercussions and consequences of committing the crime before being released.
- Detain and hold the minor until a parent or guardian picks him or her up.
- Take the minor child into custody and refer him or her to a court officer who handles juvenile cases.
The Juvenile Court System
When a case has been referred to the juvenile court system, the prosecutor will choose whether or not to dismiss the case, file formal charges, or handle the matter off the record. Your criminal defense attorney in Fairfax VA can provide insight as to which scenario is most likely.
Minors who will usually enter the juvenile court system usually fall into one of these categories:
- Children under 7 years of age cannot be tried for a crime they committed; rather, their parents may be held responsible.
- Children between the ages of 7 and 15 can be tried in juvenile court.
- Children between the ages of 12 and 18 can be tried in juvenile court, but if they are accused of a particularly serious crime, the prosecutor may try them as an adult.
Off the Record Cases
If the prosecutor has decided to not pursue the matter in juvenile court, he or she might require the child to appear before a judge. Informal judgements can be made at the discretion of the judge and at the minimum may include a lecture. Other remedies may include paying a fine, reimbursement to the victim, performing community service, counseling, and so forth. Your criminal defense attorney in Fairfax VA can suggest an appropriate punishment, but it will be up to the judge to decide.
With the help of a criminal defense attorney in Fairfax VA, your child may be able to get released before formal charges are filed against them. Otherwise, the following process could ensue:
Arraignment: Formal charges are made.
Hearing: The court takes jurisdiction of the case or a fitness hearing is scheduled to determine whether the minor should be tried as an adult.
Plea: The minor pleads guilty or not guilty. Based on the plea, the case could go to trial.
Trial: A juvenile trial generally does not involve a jury; rather only a judge will hear the evidence and decide the fate of the minor.
Sentencing: If a judge finds the minor to be guilty, he or she will be sentenced.
Post Sentencing: Minors are typically required to appear in court after their sentencing to track their current progress.
Avoiding Formal Criminal Charges
A number of factors will likely be considered when a prosecutor is determining whether or not formal charges should be filed. Some might be:
- The charges and their severity.
- The attitude of the minor.
- The age of the minor.
- Past problems or criminal acts by the minor.
- Evidence against the minor.
- The minor’s family circumstances.
- Whether or not the minor has a criminal defense lawyer.
Has Your Minor Child Been Charged with a Crime? Talk With a Criminal Defense Attorney in Fairfax VA Today
A juvenile record can have consequences that last well into the minor’s adulthood. If your child has been charged with a crime, consider talking with a criminal defense attorney in Fairfax VA immediately.
A Criminal Defense Attorney Fairfax, VA on Virginia Law
Being charged with a crime is stressful, and confusing and a criminal defense attorney in Fairfax, VA can help. Those normally in a position of trust — the police and prosecutors — are suddenly “on the other side.” Worse, Virginia’s procedures seem tilted against the defendant. Sure, there are platitudes such as “presumption of innocence” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, in Virginia, there is also jury recommended sentencing without context and limited discovery. Whatever the cause, it is a fact that some people are wrongfully convicted of crimes. A criminal defense attorney in Fairfax, Va is needed to work to avoid this.
Note: Dave Albo practices in Fairfax, and handles cases in other counties of Virginia. Fairfax, Va is referenced in this article because it is the largest jurisdiction in Virginia with the most rigid procedures. Work done to Fairfax standards usually meets or exceeds the standards in other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth, so it is common to use it as a benchmark.
What are the general principles of Virginia criminal law?
In Virginia, a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. All crimes can be decided by a jury, and the jury must be unanimous to convict the person. The accused has the right to remain silent and require the prosecutor to prove his guilt, if possible. Thus, one can sit through a full jury trial doing and saying nothing and, at the end, ask the judge, “can I go home now?” If the prosecutor failed to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, the answer will be “yes!” (Naturally, success at trial is usually not that easy — hence the need for a top criminal defense attorney.
What makes Virginia criminal law unique?
There are many things that make Virginia unique. The two most controversial ones are limited discovery and jury sentencing. Unlike in many states, the prosecutor is not required to turn over very much information about your case. Remarkably, your lawyer does not even get to see the police report! Some prosecutors, recognizing how unfair this is and truly wishing to avoid erroneous convictions on their watch, adopt an “open file” discovery policy. This permits the defense attorney to see the police report and other important information. However, most prosecutors only turn over the mandatory minimum.
Jury sentencing is the relatively unique Virginia procedure whereupon our juries have two functions. First, they determine whether a defendant is “guilty” or “not guilty.” This is what juries do in all states. However, second, if they find the defendant “guilty,” they deliberate a second time and recommend the sentence — how much prison or jail time. Despite the existence of Sentencing Guidelines that would give context to sentencing, jurors do not get to see them and, thus, make sentencing recommendations in the absence of this important context.
Can I get in trouble if I didn’t do anything wrong but was just “there?”
A person need not commit a crime to be criminally liable. One could be an “accomplice” who helped another commit the crime — such as a “lookout.” Or, one could help another who committed the crime as an accessory before or after the fact — such as one who hides the person after the crime is committed. A criminal defense attorney in such cases will try to dissuade the prosecution or argue for a better disposition due to the minor role of the client in the alleged offense.
What are common criminal law defenses?
A criminal defense attorney in Fairfax, Va will often work from the back of a case forward. He or she will review the alleged crime – often using pattern jury instructions – and list the “elements.” Elements are the several things that the government must prove to win a conviction. Can each element be proven beyond a reasonable doubt?
Allegations that Constitutional rights have been violated are also common defenses. For example, if the police violate the Constitution by illegally searching one’s home, the penalty is that they can’t use any evidence obtained during that search. Defenses are different based on each case. For example, an alibi defense necessarily requires some proof that the accused was not at the crime scene.
What is the procedure for the prosecution of a misdemeanor?
Misdemeanor prosecutions commence on a Summons or Warrant of Arrest. The accused is given a court date for an “arraignment” wherein he is formally read the charges and told to get a criminal defense attorney in Fairfax, Va. The accused is given a second date for the trial. Motions may be heard on the day of trial or sometime in advance, depending on the court and issue. Misdemeanor trials are before a single judge in the General District Court. If convicted in that court, the accused can appeal to the Circuit Court for a new trial before a jury. In some instances, a misdemeanor trial begins in the Circuit Court.
What is the procedure for the prosecution of a felony?
Felony prosecutions commence on a Warrant of Arrest or an Indictment. In most cases, the accused is called before the General District Court for a Preliminary Hearing. This is a truncated trial on the issue of whether the government can prove that there is “sufficient cause” to prosecute him. If the case proceeds, it goes to the Circuit Court for an arraignment, motions, and trial.
Why should I choose Dave Albo to defend me?
Dave Albo has been defending criminal law cases in Virginia for over 21 years. He is a former prosecutor, he regularly teaches criminal law to Virginia judges and to other lawyers. Dave Albo is proud of his work and thinks that the accolades he has received in the media and from his clients really set him apart.
Call Dave Albo today if you wish to speak with a criminal defense attorney Fairfax VA residents trust.