When your child gets in trouble with the law, it is essential that your attorney knows the differences between the juvenile justice system in Arkansas and the adult criminal court system. While juvenile courts are a division of local circuit courts, the juvenile justice system is overseen by the Arkansas Division of Youth Services. The process your child will go through—and their rights—are not the same as an adult who is arrested and charged with a crime. Also, your child can get in trouble with the law for conduct that would not be illegal if they were an adult. They can find themselves in court for skipping school or running away from home.
If your child has been arrested for a crime or truancy, contact a Fayetteville juvenile crimes attorney right away. Our Fayetteville criminal defense attorneys at The Law Group of Northwest Arkansas LLP will guide you and your child through this process, and we will fight hard for the best possible outcome for your son or daughter. We are highly experienced in Washington and Benton County juvenile delinquency cases and are here to help. Specifically, Law Group attorney, Heather Campbell was the Washington County, Arkansas Juvenile Prosecutor for several years. She has the experience and knowledge to navigate this process for you in a way no other juvenile defense attorney in our area can. Call us at (479) 316-3760 or contact us through our online form.
Youths’ Right to Counsel After Juvenile Arrests
An adolescent’s rights during the juvenile court process may not be the same as an adult’s rights, but they do have rights. A youth has the right to an attorney at all stages of the proceedings and all hearings. They must be informed of their right to a lawyer at several stages of the process, including:
- By a law enforcement officer when the youth is taken into custody;
- By the intake officer at the initial intake interview; and
- By the circuit court at the youth’s first court appearance.
If a judge determines the proceedings could result in the adolescent being committed to an institution, such as a juvenile detention facility, then the judge must appoint the youth a lawyer. The adolescent is also entitled to hire their own attorney, including the experienced individuals at the Law Group of Northwest Arkansas.
The Court Process for Juvenile Offenders
The juvenile court procedure is dictated by state law. However, each county has its own court rules for juvenile proceedings. If you or your child are in trouble with the law in Washington County, you need to call a Fayetteville juvenile delinquency attorney who understands the court’s local rules, procedures, and customs. The Law Group also has former Benton and Washington County prosecuting attorneys on staff and ready to help you navigate these systems.
The juvenile court process includes:
Intake: The juvenile court process may begin with a citation or it may start with the minor being taken into custody. That decision is made during the initial intake by a juvenile intake officer at a juvenile facility. That officer determines whether the youth should be detained or released. The officer also determines whether the situation should move forward to the prosecutor or whether the youth should go through a diversion process.
Notification: When a youth is taken into custody, law enforcement officers must make every attempt to notify that minor’s parents or guardians. At that point, you can contact a Fayetteville juvenile lawyer for your child.
Detention hearing: If a law enforcement or juvenile intake officer does not release a minor within 72 hours of taking them into custody, there must be a detention hearing. At this hearing, a judge determines whether a minor should continue to be detained or should be released. If the minor is not a danger to themselves or others and not a flight risk, the minor may be released into the custody of their parents, guardians, or into the foster care system. At this point, you have been notified your child is in law enforcement custody. You should contact a Fayetteville juvenile crimes attorney right away.
Prosecutorial discretion: Prosecutors have a great deal of discretion in how they handle juvenile cases. They may pursue charges of juvenile delinquency, which alleges the youth committed an offense that would be a crime even if they were over 18 years old. Or, they may file a petition for a Family in Need of Services (FINS), which means the adolescent is habitually absent from school, habitually disobedient, absent from home, and/or in need of counseling or other services. FINS cases are often brought to the court’s attention by a parent or school official.
Arraignment hearing: The minor must attend an arraignment hearing to learn about the case against them. The judge may explain that they are being accused of juvenile delinquency or of being a youth in need of services. The judge also will remind the adolescent that they have a right to an Arkansas juvenile defense lawyer.
Pre-trial proceedings: There may be several hearings that take place before a youth’s trial, including motions regarding evidence or requesting dismissal of the case. Also, during this time, a youth’s attorney and the prosecutor may conduct plea bargain negotiations. Juvenile defense attorneys often negotiate for youths to go through diversion programs, which can enable adolescents to keep a clean record and to avoid detention in a juvenile facility.
Adjudication: If a minor is detained at his/her detention hearing, his/her case must be adjudicated with 14 days after the detention hearing. It is during this adjudication hearing when a judge makes a finding of juvenile delinquency or FINS.
Who Are Juvenile Delinquents?
Delinquent minors are adolescents under the age of 18 years who committed an offense that would also be a crime if they were over 18 years old. Common juvenile offenses include alcohol- and drug-related crimes, shoplifting, and breaking or entering. Adolescents can also be arrested and charged with more serious crimes, such as sexual assault, public indecency, assault, battery, or aggravated assault.
Juvenile delinquents differ from a child determined to be FINS, in other words, a child in need of services. If a judge hands down a finding of FINS, it means the youth has participated in offenses that are concerning but would not be a crime if they were over 18 years old. It could be that they repeatedly skip school, run away, or are often gone from the home without permission or a reasonable justification. It could be that the adolescent’s parents, guardians, or school officials simply cannot get them to behave.
In both circumstances, the juvenile justice system is not intended to be punitive. Instead, it focuses on rehabilitation. The juvenile system is intended to get youthful offenders the services they need to reform and avoid reoffending.
When a Juvenile Can Be Tried as an Adult
There may also be another step in the juvenile justice system process. Prosecutors may seek to have a minor charged as an adult. Any minor charged as an adult faces an adult sentencing range to be served in an adult prison.
In Arkansas, a minor who is at least 16 years old can be transferred to the adult court for any felony.
A minor who is 14 or 15 years old can be transferred to the adult court for certain felonies, including:
- Capital murder
- First- or second-degree murder
- Attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit murder
- Aggravated robbery
- First- or second-degree battery
- Aggravated assault
- Attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit the previous crimes
- Soliciting a minor to join a gang
- Second handgun possession offense
- Possession of a gun by adjudicated felon
- Possession of a gun on school property
- Unlawful discharge of a gun in a vehicle
- Criminal use of prohibited weapons
- Any felony committed by a habitual juvenile offender
- Any felony while armed with a gun
Each case is examined individually, and a judge considers the circumstances and law when determining whether a youth should remain within the juvenile system or be charged and tried as an adult.
If you or your child have been arrested, and a prosecutor seeks to have the case tried in the adult courts, call a Fayetteville juvenile crimes attorney immediately.
Potential Outcomes for Juvenile Crimes
There are a variety of potential outcomes for juvenile cases in Arkansas, including:
- Community service
- Supervised or unsupervised probation
- Home confinement
- Electronic monitoring
- Removal from the home and placement with another guardian
- Wardship—the juvenile becomes a ward of the state and is placed in foster care
- Counseling or other mental health treatment
- Drug or alcohol treatment
- Detention in a juvenile facility for a specific period of time
- Detention in a juvenile facility for an unspecified period of time
Contact a Fayetteville Juvenile Defense Lawyer for Help
The minute you know your minor son or daughter has been arrested is the minute you should be thinking about finding an attorney. Once an adolescent becomes involved with the juvenile justice system, it can be hard to get them out. Without legal representation, there may be a finding against your child. This can lead to all sorts of consequences, from having to deal with a probation officer to being placed in detention for months or years.