Juvenile Delinquency Questions and Answers
In many ways, juvenile delinquency cases are just like adult criminal cases. The procedures can begin the same way, with an arrest, followed by arraignments, trials, bail, and eventually a trial. This page, Juvenile Delinquency Questions and Answers should help answer some of your questions.
However, there are significant differences in other very important ways that you should know about if you or your juvenile child is in trouble with the law.
What is the difference between a “Youthful Offender” and a Juvenile Delinquent?
A juvenile is simply a child under the statutory age to be considered an adult. In Massachusetts, a juvenile is anyone between the ages of seven and seventeen. A “youthful offender” is slightly different. Under Massachusetts law, the Youthful Offender statute states that all juveniles age fourteen and older charged with murder are automatically treated as adults, and juveniles age fourteen and older who have been charged with serious offenses to be treated as adults if the prosecutor chooses. This means that the juvenile can be, or will be, in the case of a murder conviction, given an adult sentence. There has been some activity in the Massachusetts government recently suggesting that the age of adulthood for less serious crimes be changed to eighteen, so this could change in the future, but for now the age of adulthood remains eighteen.
What is a “Child Requiring Assistance” case?
There are several types of Child Requiring Assistance Cases, but they all typically involve getting juveniles the care they need by asking the court for assistance.
- Runaway, where a child between the ages of six and eighteen repeatedly runs away from home;
- Stubborn Child, where a child between the ages of six and eighteen repeatedly fails to obey reasonable home rules, making the parent unable to care for the child;
- Habitual School Offender, where a child between the ages of six and eighteen repeatedly fails to obey school rules;
- Habitual Truant, where a child between the ages of six and eighteen fails to attend school for more than eight days in a quarter;
- Sexually Exploited Child, where any child under the age of eighteen has been subjected to sexual exploitation, including victims of sex trafficking and minor prostitution.
A child is not “arrested” for a Child Requiring Assistance Case, rather the parent, legal guardian, or child’s school would file an application with the court for assistance. Next, a judge would hold a preliminary hearing to determine whether to accept the application, followed by a fact-finding hearing, where the judge would determine whether the child is in need of assistance. Depending on what the judge decides, the child may be allowed to remain with the parent or legal guardian, placed with a relative, placed with a licensed child care agency, or placed in DCF (Department of Children & Families) custody.
My Child Was Arrested. What Happens Next?
It depends on what your child was arrested for and what crimes they are charged with. If your child is a juvenile, the complaint will be filed in juvenile court, and the case will be heard in front of a jury but will be closed to the public. The Court may determine that the child is delinquent and either place the child on probation or commit the child to DYS (the Department of Youth Services) until he or she turns eighteen. If your child is a “youthful offender,” charged with a more serious crime, the District Attorney may choose to file the complaint in juvenile court or by indictment (a formal charge in an open courtroom). The judge or jury may determine that the child is a youthful offender and sentence him or her to an adult sentence in prison, a juvenile DYS sentence, or a combination of both.
What Happens if My Child Is Committed to DYS?
If your child is committed to DYS, they are under the care of the facility and will need to participate in the treatment and programs assigned to them. A caseworker will monitor their progress throughout their time in DYS.
Can My Child Get a Plea Deal Instead of Going to Trial?
Yes, possibly. A plea deal is an agreement worked out between your attorney and the prosecutor or judge, which would include terms your child would need to complete in order to resolve his or her case without a trial. It is extremely important to discuss pleas with an experienced attorney in order to make the best choices given your child’s situation.
Need More Information? Consult a Juvenile Delinquency Attorney.
Let me help you understand your child’s rights and make sure he or she is protected during a juvenile or youthful offender hearing. Call Paul Santos Law at 508-996-0941 or contact me online to represent you and your child throughout this challenging process.