Juvenile Defense Lawyers in Northern Virginia
The juvenile defense lawyers at Livesay & Myers have years of experience in the juvenile justice system, aggressively defending juveniles against criminal charges throughout Northern Virginia.
While the juvenile justice system shares many common features with the adult criminal justice system, the two are distinctly different in terms of both process and substance. When shopping for an attorney to represent your child, it is important to hire one who is familiar with the options available for juveniles and the long-term consequences a conviction can have on your child.
In Virginia, all cases involving juveniles begin in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (JDR Court) of the jurisdiction in which your child’s act allegedly occurred. This is different from adults, whose charges usually begin in General District Court. The differences between the two courts are significant, yet subtle in nature. Hearings in the JDR Court are closed to the public: only involved parties, their families, and attorneys will be permitted to be in the courtroom. Additionally, juvenile files are confidential and only certain authorized individuals will be allowed to view them or get information about juvenile court cases.
Juvenile charges are brought on petitions, not warrants or summons as with adult cases. There are two main levels of juvenile charges—petitions will either allege that the child is delinquent or that they are a child in need of services/supervision. A delinquent act is any offense that would be considered a criminal offense, either misdemeanor or felony, if it had been committed by an adult. Offenses designated as child in need of services/supervision (commonly referred to as CHINS) are offenses that apply to only juveniles, such as running away from home or truancy. Delinquency charges are more severe than CHINS petitions and can result in significant consequences for your child.
The Juvenile Justice Process in Virginia
Once a child has been alleged to have committed a delinquent act, a few things can happen. In many cases, the child will be given a court date and returned to the custody of their parents. In some circumstances (and particularly for serious offenses or repeat offenders), the child will be detained and a detention hearing will be held to determine if the child should continue to be detained prior to trial. If a child is detained, they will either be placed in a less secure facility or a juvenile detention center. The juvenile detention center is the juvenile equivalent of jail, but is located in a separate facility from adults. Most juvenile detention centers allow visitors, but visitation periods and policies are often very strict and vary widely from facility to facility. If a child is held pending trial, the trial is required to take place within 21 days of the detention hearing.
At trial, the child will have the same options as an adult—they can plead guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendre (no contest). The child’s parents will be summoned to be at court with their child for every court hearing. If neither parent is present, the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to represent the child’s best interests and stand in as their guardian for the hearing. Some judges will keep the GAL on the case for its entirety and some will only keep them just for the hearing.
If the juvenile pleads guilty, no contest, or if they are found guilty, the disposition will be that the child was found to be delinquent by committing the alleged offense. When a juvenile is found to be delinquent, the court has a lot of options available to it, which can include:
- Placing the child on probation or other conditions and returning them to parental custody;
- Deferring disposition for a period of time and dismissing the case if the juvenile has complied with conditions and limitations set by the court;
- Ordering alcohol/drug services, mental health treatment, community service, restitution or other programs/classes as the court deems appropriate;
- Imposing a fine not to exceed $500;
- Suspending the juvenile’s driver’s license;
- Ordering the juvenile into a bootcamp or other program as an alternative to commitment;
- Placing the juvenile in a secure local facility; and
- Committing the juvenile to the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The two most serious of these options are the last two—placement in a secure local facility or commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice:
Secure local facility. The secure local facility would most likely be the juvenile detention center in the court’s jurisdiction. The child has to be 14 years of age or older, not previously adjudicated delinquent on a violent felony and not recently released by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Any confinement is limited to 30 days unless an assessment has been conducted on the appropriateness of a longer term placement. This is the juvenile equivalent of being sentenced to jail.
Department of Juvenile Justice. A commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice is the most serious punishment available for juveniles (who have not been transferred to circuit court as adults). The Department of Juvenile Justice is the juvenile equivalent of the Department of Corrections for adults. A juvenile can only be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice if they committed a felony offense, committed a Class 1 misdemeanor after having been found delinquent of a felony, or committed a Class 1 misdemeanor when there have been three prior and distinct delinquency findings on Class 1 misdemeanors. A juvenile has to be at least 11 years old in order to be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Certain serious juvenile offenders can be ordered to remain at the Department indefinitely or up until their 21st birthday. This is roughly the juvenile equivalent of being sentenced to prison.
In addition to the punishments and programs that can be imposed on juveniles, delinquency findings can have significant impacts on their lives that carry over well into adulthood. Being sent to detention or committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice can be a traumatic event for many juveniles, one that can have major long-term repercussions on their mental and social health. Often, the juvenile’s school schedule will be disrupted and their grades suffer, which could impact their prospects for college admission.
Expungement. Longer term, it should be noted that charges are not expunged from a juvenile’s record when they turn 18. Misdemeanor offenses are expunged after the juvenile has turned 19 and five years since the offense has elapsed. Traffic matters are not destroyed until the juvenile turns 29. Felony records are retained and never destroyed. Additionally, felony juvenile records concerning the adjudication of the case are available to the public when the juvenile was over the age of 14 at the time of the offense. Felony juvenile adjudications are used in the Virginia Sentencing Guidelines and can be used to increase the punishment an adult receives at sentencing for adult crimes. While a juvenile who is found delinquent for a felony will not lose their voting rights, their rights to have a firearm are restricted depending on their age and the nature of the felony of which they were found delinquent. A finding of delinquency on a felony will stay with the juvenile for their entire life.
Given the seriousness of the consequences juveniles face if found delinquent of criminal acts in Virginia, it is imperative that they are represented by experienced juvenile defense lawyers ready to aggressively defend their rights and their future.
- Five Things to Expect When Your Child Is Facing Criminal Charges
- When Are Juveniles Tried As Adults in Virginia?
- Expungement Of Juvenile Records In Virginia
- How the Juvenile Criminal System Works in Fairfax County
Our Juvenile Defense Lawyers
Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced juvenile defense attorneys in Northern Virginia. The size and resources of our firm allow us to offer a comprehensive, aggressive defense to each client. Our attorneys are supported by a team of paralegals and law clerks. We also have a network of private investigators and forensic experts at our disposal. Be sure to read our client reviews, then review the profiles of each of our criminal attorneys to find the one who is the best fit for you.
Free Consultation. If your child has been charged with a crime in Northern Virginia, contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced defense attorneys today. Each of our offices are open Monday–Friday, 8:30 am–5:30 pm; during off-hours please send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.