When juveniles, ranging in age from 13 to 17, are charged with criminal offenses in New York, their cases may be handled by a family court or criminal court depending on the specific charges filed. If defended correctly, teenagers charged with serious crimes can nonetheless avoid a permanent criminal record, or can be adjudicated as a youthful offender, which will benefit them in the future when they apply for school, jobs, or if subsequent legal issues arise. Hiring a skilled defense attorney for your child will positively shape his or her future even in the face of criminal exposure at a young age.
Generally, when a juvenile is arrested, the child is brought to family court, unless a serious felony is charged. Children aged 16 and 17, and who are not charged with particularly serious felonies, may be automatically diverted to a special Youth Part of the adult criminal court.
After a child is brought to court, a probation officer will conduct an initial interview. If the probation officer decides not to file formal charges, the child will be released. If charges are filed, there will be an initial hearing before a family court judge who will decide if the child will be released while the case is pending. Either trajectory for the case mandates the assistance of a criminal lawyer and one versed in the juvenile court process.
Of deep concern, where a teenager is charged with a particularly serious crime, such as homicide, rape, and some forms of assault and weapons possession, the case may nevertheless be heard in adult criminal court despite the individual’s age. The consequences of this charging decision are consequential, and the government may seek to treat your child as an adult, despite the obvious age differentials. While there are methods and avenues for successfully petitioning the case back down to a family court, where prosecutions remain in criminal court it is essential that an experienced, aggressive defense attorney assure that your child is protected.
If your child is being charged in either family court or criminal court, hire a former prosecutor and preeminent defense attorney who has dealt with these offenses on both sides of the courtroom. The steps your defense attorney takes, by way of investigation and creative advocacy, will increase your chances of successfully walking away from these accusations and shape the rest of your life.
The sooner you put your case in the hands of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, the more opportunity you will have to work toward a favorable outcome.