Texas Juvenile Court
Charges against juveniles accused of delinquent conduct
A juvenile charge is called “referral to a juvenile court” and rather than an indictment or complaint the State files a “Petition” to “charge” a juvenile. A juvenile who engages in delinquent conduct or commits a CINS violation can be referred to juvenile court, where several things can happen. The juvenile can be dealt with informally and returned home.
If the county decides to charge the juvenile with delinquent conduct, the juvenile is afforded the same legal rights as an adult charged with a crime. This includes a right to have the case heard by a jury. In certain circumstances, the county can request to have a youth certified as an adult (commonly called “tried as an adult”). If such is granted, the person is considered an adult for criminal purposes and will no longer be in the juvenile justice system. After certification your child will be in the adult penal system and the rules of the juvenile system generally do not apply.
If the juvenile is “adjudicated” for delinquent conduct, there are several possible disposition options, or outcomes, as follows:
- Your child may be placed on probation; or
- Your child may be sent to the Texas Youth Commission with an indeterminate sentence (only felony offenses); or
- Your child may be sent to the Texas Youth Commission with a determinate sentence (only certain offenses).
If your child, a juvenile, is placed on probation (and not sent to Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD)) then your child must be discharged from the probation by the time he or she turns 18.
If your child, a juvenile, is sent to Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) with an indeterminate sentence then your child must be discharged by the time he or she turns 19.
If your child is sent to Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) with a determinate sentence then your child may be transferred to adult prison depending on his or her behavior and progress in Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) programs.
The juvenile justice system uses what is called “The Progressive Sanctions and Interventions Model.”
If your child is referred to the juvenile courts, depending on his or her offense and history (along with a number of other factors) he or she will experience a unique journey through the juvenile justice system. When the system is working properly the progressive sanctions and interventions model is designed to start with the least amount of intervention or sanctions possible, progressively getting more serious and intensive as necessary to help juveniles learn to become productive, law-abiding citizens. Insuring your child is provided the appropriate services and not harshly treated is one of the major rolls of a juvenile defense attorney. Tarrant County describes this as a “Continuum of Service.”
The juvenile probation departments are generally involved from the outset of proceedings.
In Texas, individual counties provide services to all youth referred to the juvenile courts. Counties, through their local district or county attorney’s offices, prosecute juvenile cases. County juvenile probation departments handle most of the sanctions and therapeutic interventions the courts may impose. Your child may be in custody. Each county has its own juvenile detention center or contracts with another county for use of a detention center. The Tarrant County Detention Center is located at 2701 Kimbo Road, Fort Worth, TX.
Counties’ juvenile probation departments’ policies are governed largely by a juvenile board.
State law requires each county to have a juvenile board. Some of these boards govern multiple counties. Each board is responsible for overseeing the operation of the juvenile probation system in that county. This includes designating juvenile judges, appointing the chief juvenile probation officer and setting the policy and budget for the juvenile probation department.
There are several State agencies involved in the juvenile law process:
At the state level, there is one primary agency that works with juvenile justice matters – TJJD Community Services (TJJD CS).Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) works in partnership with local juvenile boards and juvenile probation departments to support and enhance juvenile probation services throughout the state by providing funding, technical assistance, and training; establishing and enforcing standards; collecting, analyzing and disseminating information; and facilitating communications between state and local entities.
Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) manages state-operated secure facilities and halfway houses to provide treatment services to those youth who have chronic delinquency problems and who have exhausted their options in the county. Additionally, youth who have committed the most serious offenses requiring specialized treatment services that counties are not equipped to provide are also likely to be committed to Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD).