Joseph, Hollander & Craft’s criminal defense attorneys regularly represent juveniles charged with violations of the Juvenile Justice Code. These proceedings can be every bit as overwhelming as adult prosecutions. Next to having an experienced defense attorney at your side, we find that knowledge of the process can be one of the most powerful tools available. If you or your loved one is being investigated for or has been charged with a violation of the Juvenile Justice Code, here is what you can expect:

Investigation
Many people believe that law enforcement officers cannot speak to minors during a criminal or juvenile justice investigation without a parent present. That is not true. In Kansas, law enforcement can talk to juveniles 14 or older their suspected involvement in a crime in without a parent or attorney. Law enforcement may even show up at a child’s school to talk for questioning.

Hiring an attorney to help guide the juvenile through an investigation is critical. An attorney can speak to the prosecutors to try to persuade them to not file charges or to file less severe charges. An attorney can also negotiate a time to appear for court instead of having the child arrested at home or school. An attorney can also make detention arrangement so that the juvenile does not have to spend time away from home.

Detention Hearing
If your child is arrested for a felony or certain misdemeanors, the next step in the process is a detention hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to decide where the child will be held while the case is pending. These hearings are held within 48 hours of the arrest. There are three main outcomes: (1) The judge can order the child to be released to his or her parents or guardians; (2) the judge can order the juvenile be placed in an out-of-home placement facility, such as a group home; or (3) the judge can order a juvenile to be detained in a juvenile detention facility. A knowledgeable juvenile defense attorney can help keep the child at home so that he or she is not forced to spend time away from family.

Motion for Adult Prosecution
In some cases, if a juvenile is close to 18 and/or is charged with a high level felony, the prosecution will file a motion to prosecute the juvenile as an adult. If successful, this will move the case from the juvenile court to adult criminal court, where crimes may be punished more severely. These hearings are not similar to anything in the adult criminal courts, so not just any criminal defense attorney will understand these hearings.

Plea Offers
At some point, the juvenile will likely encounter a plea offer. Juvenile cases have an array of possible outcomes that are not available in adult criminal courts, and it is important to hire an attorney who is knowledgeable about the potential outcomes available under the Juvenile Justice Code. It is also important that your attorney know the collateral consequences of a guilty plea, which can differ from the collateral consequences of pleas entered in adult criminal courts.

Trial
A juvenile charged with an offense has the right to a trial by jury. Jury trials in the juvenile court are a new area of law, as the right to a jury trial in juvenile court has not even been available for ten years. The process is still evolving, and it is important to have an attorney who realizes this and is able to incorporate the best-interest-of-the-child standard into the trial process. This consideration should directly impact the way an attorney prepares for trial, the questions the attorney asks potential jurors, and the jury instructions requested.

Sentencing
When a juvenile case concludes in either a guilty plea or a guilty verdict, the case will include a sentencing. The juvenile courts use a matrix that, based on the charge and the juvenile’s prior history, shows what sentences a juvenile is eligible to receive. However, unlike in a criminal case, there is no presumption for which sentence the juvenile will receive. Juvenile sentencing also differs from criminal sentencing in that there are many more sentencing options available.

Appeals
A juvenile may be entitled to appeal his or her conviction or sentence for review by a higher court. Any appeal must be taken within 30 days of the hearing. The appellate process is the same for a juvenile matter as it is for an adult criminal matter.

Expungement
Many juvenile convictions can be expunged two years after the sentence is complete or two years after the offender reaches the age of 18. Expungement also applies to arrests and diversions. The effect of an expungement is to seal the records related to the juvenile case. An order of expungement also permits you to say, under most circumstances, that you have not been adjudicated of the expunged crime.

Many people are shocked to learn that juvenile records are no longer automatically sealed. Our clients have reported juvenile adjudications showing up on background checks for new jobs and in other areas of their lives.

If you or your loved one is facing a juvenile adjudication or needs assistance appealing or expunging a juvenile adjudication, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Joseph, Hollander & Craft. With attorneys in Wichita (316-262-939), Topeka (785-234-3272), Lawrence (785-856-0143), and Overland Park (913-948-9490), we serve clients from the Oklahoma border to the Kansas City area.

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