The Juvenile Justice System deals with adolescent (age 10 to 17 years) misconduct and the need for supervision to respond to the level of the misconduct.
The Juvenile Justice System provides for the protection of the public. In so doing, a punishment concept is provided for criminal behavior, including an emphasis on rehabilitation, treatment, and the full interaction of the family to restore the child to their greatest potential.
In dealing with punishment for the juvenile offender, a series of sanctions have been designed as guidelines.
Sanction Level One - counseling for the child, impose reasonable restrictions to prevent repetition of the conduct, family counseling.
Sanction Level Two - deferred prosecution for 90 to 180 days, restitution to victim, community service if appropriate.
Sanction Level Three - Probation for not less than 6 to 12 months, restitution to victim and/or community service, close monitoring of the child's behavior.
Sanction Level Four - place the child in a regimented program emphasizing academic physical and social responsibility for not less than 3 to 12 months as a condition of probation; after release from the program an additional 6 to 12 months of supervision.
Sanction Level Five - place the child in a post-adjudication facility for 6 to 12 months as a condition of probation; after release from the facility, continued supervision for 6 to 12 months.
Sanction Level Six - the Court may commit the child to a Texas Youth Commission (TYC) facility. This is an indeterminate commitment and the TYC can maintain custody of the offender until the age of 21 or the Court may place the child in a structured residential program for not less than 9 to 24 months.
Section Level Seven - The Juvenile Court may certify that the child be transferred to the jurisdiction of a District Criminal Court (Adult) age 14 or older if the offense is a capital or First Degree Felony or age 15 years or older if the offense ranges from a State Jail Felony to Second Degree Felony
The Juvenile Court can sentence the child to commitment in a TYC facility or place the child on probation for up to 10 years.
Depending on the seriousness of the crime a juvenile court may waive its jurisdiction and transfer a child to a (adult) criminal court. The criteria used is the child 15 years or older at the time the offense occurred if a 2nd or 3rd Degree or State Jail Felony; or 14 and older if a Capital or 1st Degree; There has been no Adjudication of the alleged offense; after a hearing the court determined there is probable cause the child committed the offense and a review of the child’s background and the protection and need of the community has been made.
In addition the court will consider if the crime was against person or property; the sophistication and maturity of the child including any prior contacts with the criminal justice system and the likelihood of rehabilitation of the child within the juvenile court system.
A determinate sentence is when the juvenile court initially committed the child to TYC with possible transfer to TDC (adult prison). This can occur if the case was indicted by a grand jury and is certified and filed in the juvenile court records. When the child reaches the age of 21 the “adult” can then be transferred into TDC for the completion of the sentence.
A child may be found to have engaged in delinquent conduct and conduct indicating a need for supervision after an adjudication hearing has been held. The child has the privilege against self-incrimination; the right to trial; confront witnesses; representation by an attorney and trial by jury. The child is presumed innocent of the charges unless the state proves the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In a trial by jury the burden remains with the state that the child engaged in delinquent conduct or in need of supervision beyond a reasonable doubt. If the court or jury finds the child did not engage in delinquent conduct or need of supervision the court shall dismiss the case with prejudice. If the court or jury find the child did engage in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating the need for supervision the court shall set a date and time for the disposition hearing.
The disposition hearing is separate and distinct and follows the adjudication hearing. There is no right to a jury during this phase unless the child is in jeopardy of a determinate sentence. If a jury is utilized it will consist of 12 persons. At the hearing the judge or jury may consider reports by the probation department, professional experts and the testimony of witnesses. The court or jury may place the child on probation ranging from in home to a public residential facility. If the court or jury finds the child violated a felony level law and if the petition was not approved by the grand jury the court or jury may sentence the child to TYC without a determinate sentence. If the court or jury concludes that the child committed murder; capital murder; manslaughter; aggravated kidnapping; sexual or aggravated sexual assault; aggravated assault; aggravated robbery; injury to child or disabled; indecency with a child, or arson and if the petition was approved by the grand jury the court or jury may sentence the child to TYC with the option to transfer to TDC. The maximum is 40 years if a Capital or Felony of the First Degree or not more than 20 years if a Second Degree or 10 years if a Third Degree.
If Juvenile is placed in a detention facility, the juvenile court must hold a hearing on the matter within two working days. If the juvenile is detained on a Friday or Saturday, the detention hearing must be held on the first working day after the detention.
At this initial hearing, and subsequent hearings held every ten working days, the judge must determine if there is good cause to continue detaining the juvenile.
Victims have the right to have their safety taken into consideration before a juvenile is released. However, detention hearings may take place before the victim has been contacted. If victims have a concern for their safety, law enforcement and the juvenile probation department should be notified immediately so this information may be brought to the attention of the person making the decision about releasing the juvenile.
2425 West Loop South, Suite 200; Houston, TX 77027
Phone: (713) 623-4828 E-Mail Fax: (713) 297-8864