Why Should I Hire a Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney in Mansfield and Mount Vernon Ohio?
Any legal proceeding is nerve wracking, but those involving children and crimes, whether misdemeanors or felonies, are often emotionally stressful events for everyone involved. In the state of Ohio, the Department of Youth Services has jurisdiction over juveniles convicted of any crime. A person under eighteen years of age is a juvenile.
Children can be charged with crimes just as serious in nature as those committed by adults, and are prosecuted just as fervently. The Juvenile Court maintains jurisdiction over underage persons who commit crimes until they are 21 years of age.
Sometimes children just fall in with the wrong crowd and they get into trouble. It’s best to consider legal representation when a juvenile is charged with violating any laws, but especially when they’re otherwise “good kids” caught up in the moment, or not thinking before they show off in front of friends.
Consult an Attorney Before a Child Makes Verbal or Written Statements
It’s best to tell a child if they’re ever in trouble not to speak to any police officers but to ask to talk to their parents immediately. A police officer may say they simply want to get the child’s honest story about what happened. The problem is that under duress a child may say something that is not true or say something that may incriminate them later– even if they’re innocent.
Interrogation rooms can be terrifying and intimidating, plus they can have cameras and recorders hidden in the room. Police are allowed to secretly tape meetings when they take breaks and allow the parents in to visit, hoping to overhear an important conversation.
Children Need to Know Their Rights
Police sometimes visit a child at school to interrogate them. A child may not realize that they can ask for a parent or attorney to be on hand when being questioned. Police reports can be one-sided and they can mislead parents and the child.
When a child goes through a second investigation a detective may be assigned to their case. Some detectives will deliberately strong-arm a child, letting them think there is incriminating evidence that can be used against them, coercing the child to cooperate.
The child may be asked to write a letter apologizing to the victim, misleading young defendants into believing they are being helped. Written declarations are immediately used as part of a police report telling the district attorney that the juvenile has freely admitted to committing the offense. It’s a strong piece of evidence in favor of the prosecuting attorney.
Another misperception can occur when a parent thinks a public defender will help their child during an investigation. Public defenders are generally not appointed by the judge until charges have already been filed. This prefiling is a critical stage in a case.
If your child is detained by police it’s imperative to hire a juvenile defense attorney with experience in juvenile law before your child goes to court. The lawyer will be able to accomplish a number of important tasks, including:
- Contacting the Prosecutor before any petitions are filed;
- Requesting the child’s release to parental or guardian’s custody;
- Requesting the child’s release from a juvenile facility;
- Convincing the Probation Department not to request a violation be filed;
- Convincing the Prosecutor not to file any charges or to file lesser charges;
- Suggesting a needed rehabilitation program to help the minor;
- Talking the Prosecutor into an informal process without a court appearance or incarceration;
- Requesting informal supervision from probation without filing a petition;
- Fighting for acquittal of all the charges at the time of trial.
An experienced defense attorney may be able to find a way to dismiss the case early on, to get it rejected, or to have it resolved in an informal manner. A good juvenile defense lawyer knows what to be prepared for in order to successfully defend a child in the complex legal system.
Being prepared ahead of time will give an attorney an opportunity to research a child’s history in school, social relationships, and to get the child’s version of the factual events. They can help to create a strategy for detention hearings to avoid any time served in a juvenile facility or to help get a child released early.
Parents can take an active role in helping their child’s attorney prepare for a case by gathering a number of important papers.
Collect documents, certificates, and awards outlining the child’s positive accomplishments. Get hard copies of report cards, as good grades will make a positive impression on the Court. (And chances are, the Probation Department will ask for these anyway.) Ask for reference letters from upstanding members of the community or positive role models who will be willing to vouch for the good character of the child. This can include instructors, clergy, employers, and neighbors.
Giving these documents directly to the child’s attorney may have a very strong impact on the case and in decisions of the court. It’s also important to tell the attorney if the child has or is suspected of having any learning disabilities or a history of mental illness. This can also impact the findings in a case. Parents need to share any contact information of potential witnesses that will help make a strong defense for the child.
A child will benefit the most when a parent selects an attorney specializing in juvenile defense with essential experience and knowledge in the field of juvenile law. When handled correctly, a child will see how the legal system works and may be inspired to always stay on the right side of the law.