Felony Juvenile Crimes
Felony Juvenile Crimes in West Chester PA
According to the 2016 Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Dispositions report, there were 23,014 delinquency-related dispositions in the state during 2016—a 4.7 percent decrease from 2015, and a 25.9 percent decrease since 2012. Seventeen-year-olds account for the largest number of dispositions of any age group in 2016, with more than a quarter of all dispositions. White youth were the largest group for delinquency dispositions at 45.1 percent, followed by Black youth at 37.9 percent and Hispanic youth at 12.7 percent. While it is certainly good news that the number of juveniles entering the juvenile justice system has decreased, unfortunately more juveniles are being charged as adults. The juvenile justice systems across the United States have a goal of rehabilitation for juveniles who find themselves in trouble. This is very different from the adult criminal justice system whose goal is punishment first, then rehabilitation.
Finding the Best Juvenile Attorneys Before Its Too Late
Its never easy looking for a lawyer and the pressure is on to when and how to find a lawyer that best serves your son or daughter’s interests. It is important to reach out and thoroughly discuss their case with your lawyer and make sure they are experienced, passionate about the fight and compassionate about your son. At Ciccarelli Law Office’s we are determined to fight for your child’s future. Contact us now by email, chat or (610) 692-8700 or (877) 529-2422.
Why a Juvenile Justice System Was Established
A separate juvenile justice system was established almost 100 years ago, with a goal of diverting juvenile offenders from the often-destructive punishments in adult criminal court. The juvenile justice system focused on the child as a person in need of assistance, through more informal proceedings and a judge whose job was to act in the best interests of the child. Even so, in early juvenile courts, young offenders were not afforded such things as the right to know the charges, the right to trial by jury, the right to confront one’s accuser and even the right to an attorney.
Those issues have mostly all changed through the years, although in the state of Pennsylvania, juvenile cases are heard before a judge rather than a jury. Even the language in juvenile courts is different from that in adult criminal courts. Juveniles are not charged with a “crime,” rather are charged with a “delinquency,” and are “adjudicated delinquent” rather than being found “guilty” of a crime. Juveniles are sent to some type of juvenile detention or even a facility where life skills are learned rather than to prison.
State Reforms in the 1980’s Leaned More Toward Punishment than Rehabilitation for Juveniles
In the 1980’s, due to the increase in violent crime, state legal reforms tended to lean toward punishment and a concern for public safety over diversion and rehabilitation. The belief was that the juvenile justice system was simply too “soft” on juvenile crime and that juvenile offenders could be as big a threat to the public as adult offenders. These policy changes have made it easier—or even mandatory—to treat juveniles who commit certain offenses as an adult. As an example, in the state of Pennsylvania a child of any age who commits murder will be tried as an adult.
Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court System and the Right to an Attorney
Pennsylvania does, however, have one system for juveniles and another for adults. Because of this, a juvenile who has committed a criminal act or behaved inappropriately in some manner while under the age of 18 could have his or her charges heard in juvenile court and adjudicated by a Pennsylvania juvenile court judge. Although in some instances a transfer to adult court could occur—mostly for very violent offenses (42 Pa. C. S. Sec. 6355 and 42 Pa. C. S. Sec. 6355(g))—the majority of juvenile criminal offenses receive adjudication through the juvenile court system. Further, those who are under the age of 21 may also be charged with a “common underage” offense or student offense rather than being charged as an adult. From start to finish, a Pennsylvania juvenile has the right to an attorney, and it is extremely important that parents take advantage of this fact.
The Process of Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court System
Entering the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court System begins with either a referral by a school official or an arrest. The juvenile will meet with a probation intake officer at a local juvenile detention center. Depending on the offense alleged, as well as whether the juvenile has a prior record of criminal offenses, the juvenile could be returned home with his or her parents or guardians (42 Pa.C.S.§6326) or returned to the juvenile detention facility (42 Pa.C.S.§6325). If the juvenile is placed in detention, a detention hearing must be held within 72 hours (42 Pa.C.S.§6332). Parents/Guardians must receive written notification or phone notification regarding the detention hearing. At this hearing, a Pennsylvania juvenile court judge will determine whether there is sufficient reason to believe the juvenile committed the crime he or she is accused of. Whether it is safe for the juvenile to go back to his or her home—for the juvenile and for the community—will also be a factor in determining whether the juvenile will be allowed to return home.
In some instances, the juvenile may be allowed to return home, but with specific provisions, such as electronic monitoring. Whether the juvenile is allowed to return home or is returned to detention, it must be determined whether the case should be dismissed for lack of solid evidence, whether the case will move forward with an informal adjustment, whether the case will move forward with a community-based diversion program, or whether charges—a delinquency petition—will be filed. If the juvenile is returned to detention, then an adjudication hearing (42 Pa.C.S.§6335) must be held within ten days. An adjudication hearing is similar in nature to the trial of an adult and the juvenile should definitely have an attorney representing him or her at the adjudication hearing.
If the judge determines a juvenile did commit the offense charged and is delinquent, then a disposition hearing (42 Pa.C.S. §§ 6352) will be scheduled. At the disposition hearing the juvenile may receive probation, community service, detention, placement in a residential treatment facility, placement in a residential school, placement in foster care or a group home, participation in court-ordered services such as alcohol abuse treatment or counseling or restitution to the victim. The above applies to misdemeanor offenses, as well as most felonies. Depending on the felony, the juvenile could potentially be charged as an adult. As noted, in the state of Pennsylvania, any minor, no matter how young, will be tried as an adult. For other offenses, a waiver may occur when a juvenile court judge transfers the case to adult court. The offense must be especially egregious, or the juvenile must have a history of offenses for a waiver to occur.
When a child is at least 14 and is accused of a felony, the case may be transferred to adult court if the juvenile court finds the public interests would be better protected by this act. There are several factors which must be considered when determining whether the public interests are better protected by sending the case to adult court. The factors primarily include whether the minor is willing to receive treatment, supervision and rehabilitation, and, if the minor is not willing to receive treatment, supervision or rehabilitation, the Commonwealth must then provide evidence which proves public interests would be better served by transferring the case to adult court.
A minor who is over the age of 14, who uses a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony, or a minor who is 15 years old or older and commits any serious offense such as rape or assault will have the presumption (42 Pa. C. S. Sec. 6355(g)) made that the public interests would be better served by sending the case to adult court. Murder is considered a statutory exclusion, since a juvenile committing murder will always be tried in adult court. Voluntary manslaughter is a statutory exclusion if the minor is 15 years or older and a weapon was used during the criminal act or if the juvenile was previously adjudicated for a serious felony offense. Crimes with a deadly weapon are statutory exclusions if the juvenile is 15 years old or older, and committed one of the following criminal offenses while using a deadly weapon: kidnapping, aggravated indecent assault, robbery of a motor vehicle, robbery, aggravated assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse or rape. A juvenile who is charged as an adult will be sentenced as an adult if found guilty of the charges. Although the maximum penalties depend on any number of factors, including the specific offense and any prior criminal history of the adolescent, the following represents some of the penalties for felony offenses:
- Third-degree felony—imprisonment for up to seven years and a fine as large as $15,000
- Second-degree felony—imprisonment for up to ten years and a fine as large as $25,000
- First-degree felony—imprisonment for up to 20 years and a fine as large as $25,000
Key Issues in Juvenile Defense
How will Juvenile Charges Impact My College Application?
Do a need a Juvenile Attorney?
What is the Juvenile Court Process?
Will Your Child Be Prosecuted like an Adult?
What Does a Juvenile Probation Officer Do?
What’s the Difference Between a Juvenile and an Adult Prosecution?
Collateral Consequences of a Juvenile Felony Conviction
As though being imprisoned and paying a large fine were not serious enough, a felony conviction for a juvenile can have a profound effect on his or her life. A young adult with a criminal record can find it difficult to attend college, difficult to obtain student financial aid, difficulty obtaining employment, difficulty renting a home, an inability to obtain a professional license, loss of voting rights during incarceration, loss of gun ownership rights, immigration issues and child custody and visitation issues. If your child has been charged as an adult—or charged with any felony or misdemeanor offense—it is imperative that you speak to an experienced Pennsylvania juvenile criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible to secure the best outcome possible for your child.
Lawyers Fighting to be Your Child’s Best Option
If your child has been arrested and charged with a crime, the highly experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Offices can help. We will fight aggressively for your child’s rights and their freedom. We will protect them during this difficult time and represent them aggressively throughout the criminal process. Contact the Ciccarelli Law Offices today by email or by phone at (610) 692-8700 or (877) 529-2422 immediately to begin building a solid defense against these serious charges. We represent juvenile clients in Chester County, Berks County, Bucks County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia.