No parent wants to think about their child going through the criminal justice system. The mere thought of their son or daughter being behind bars can make a parent feel frightened and helpless. However, if you learn that your child has been arrested, taking quick and decisive action can make a big difference in helping their case achieve a positive resolution. Below, our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long explain when and how you should engage the service of an attorney to represent your child in their case.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney for Your Child in Philadelphia
Those parents who do not have previous experience with the criminal justice system may not know whether they are permitted to hire a criminal defense attorney on behalf of their child. You are permitted to do so. In fact, anyone can hire a criminal defense attorney for anyone else. However, this does not mean that you are entitled to know what was said between your child and their attorney in private conversations, even if you are paying the attorney. Attorney-client privilege still applies.
The Difference Between Juvenile and Adult Criminal Proceedings in Philadelphia
In Pennsylvania, juveniles facing accusations of criminal misconduct are typically dealt with in a different court system than adults. Much of the terminology in the juvenile justice system is different from that used in the adult court system. Rather than being charged with a crime, juveniles have a delinquency petition filed against them. Instead of being found guilty, if the charges are proven the child is said to be adjudicated delinquent. There are no jury trials in juvenile court – all cases are decided by a judge. A juvenile who has been adjudicated delinquent will be labelled a “delinquent child” and will face a disposition hearing where a penalty of some sort will be handed down.
When a Juvenile Can be Charged as an Adult
It is very rare that a juvenile can be charged as an adult in Pennsylvania because the point of the juvenile justice system is to be less punitive and more focused on rehabilitation. However, for certain particularly serious crimes, a juvenile can be charged as an adult and their case will be handled through the adult court system. In the case of murder, a juvenile is always tried as an adult. A minor fifteen years of age or older can be tried as an adult if a deadly weapon is used during the commission of the crime for charges including the following:
- Rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
- Aggravated assault
- Voluntary manslaughter
- An attempt, conspiracy to commit, or solicitation of murder
Furthermore, if a juvenile was previously adjudicated delinquent of one of the above crimes, they can be tried as an adult for other crimes as well.
Common Types of Juvenile Crimes in Philadelphia
A minor can be adjudicated delinquent for essentially any offense that an adult could be convicted of in the regular court system. However, the following are some of the more common charges our juvenile clients face:
- Drug possession
- Underage drinking
- Drunk driving
- Reckless driving
- Sex Crimes (including child pornography for texting naked pictures of themselves or receiving naked pictures from another juvenile)
Penalties for Juvenile Crimes in Philadelphia
The juvenile court system is supposed to work toward the rehabilitation of juveniles; it is not supposed to be punitive. However, in practice many of the consequences minors face if they have been adjudicated delinquent can be harsh and may seem punitive.
Pre-Adjudication Diversion Program
The best-case scenario is for the court to allow the minor to be placed into a pre-trial intervention program in lieu of a delinquency adjudication. If the minor successfully completes the program’s requirements, the case will be dismissed, and no record will exist. An experienced Philadelphia juvenile defense lawyer will know how to advocate to get your child placed into such a program.
Time in a Juvenile Detention Center
If adjudicated delinquent, a minor faces the prospect of being sentenced to spend time in a juvenile detention facility. While these facilities are supposed to be less rigid than prison and are meant to encourage minors to get treatment for any issues causing their criminal conduct, it is still often a harrowing and life-altering experience for a child to be taken away from their home and placed behind bars.
Court Costs, Fines, and Restitution
If a child or their guardian fails to pay required court costs, fines or restitution, when they turn eighteen a judgment can be filed against them. This can affect their credit rating and other financial matters.
A delinquent juvenile placed on probation will be required to undergo certain requirements like counseling, educational courses, and community service. If they fail to complete these requirements or report to their probation officer on time, they may end up back in the juvenile court facing further penalties for probation violations.
Effects on the Minor’s Future
A minor who has been adjudicated delinquent could face long-term consequences such as being expelled from high school, being denied enrollment in college, being denied access to financial aid, not being allowed to enroll in the military, and having difficulty finding a job.
Hire Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney for Your Child Today
At The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, our compassionate, knowledgeable Philadelphia juvenile defense attorneys understand that watching your child go through a traumatic experience like an arrest can be just as painful for you as it is for them. That is why we are here, not only to aggressively defend your child against their charges in and out of the courtroom, but also to serve as a guide for you through this foreign process. We are always here to answer your questions and help you understand the best actions you can take to minimize the damage for your child. For a free consultation, call us today at (215) 302-0171.