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Juvenile Crimes Attorney in Kennewick, Washington

Having a child arrested can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Parents wonder how their children will be treated while in custody and what will happen if they are convicted. Parents also worry about their parenting skills, wonder what they have done wrong, feel guilty for their children’s transgressions, and experience stress over what other people will say about them.

Among the range of emotions, parents should remain focused on doing what’s best for their child. And that is what they would do for themselves if they were arrested for a crime. They should retain an experienced and compassionate criminal defense attorney to represent their child. Not all criminal defense attorneys handle juvenile cases, but those who do, like Attorney Nicholas George, understand the differences between the legal system that prosecutes adults and the one that prosecutes juveniles. It is an extremely important distinction.

As of January 2022, juveniles arrested for crimes in Washington have the same right to counsel as adults. Before waiving any of their rights under the law, they have a right to speak with an attorney. It’s a right that may help them in their defense, just as it does for adults. That means that hiring an attorney is the best thing you can do for your child in the moment of crisis.

If your juvenile child is facing criminal charges in Kennewick, Walla Walla, Spokane, Benton County, or Franklin County, Washington, do what you can right now. Call Nicholas George Law Firm PLLC.

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What is Delinquency in Washington?

Delinquency refers to acts committed by juveniles that would be crimes if they had been perpetrated by adults. In Washington, a juvenile is any child under the age of 18, since 18 and above is the age of majority.

Examples of juvenile delinquent acts would include shoplifting, theft, vandalism, sex offenses, and assault. If an adult committed any of these offenses, they would be charged with a crime. However, due to the age of the juvenile offender, the charges, judicial process, and punishment are handled by a different set of rules than those adults are subject to.

How Does the Juvenile Process Work?

Law enforcement may detain juveniles for delinquent behavior. An officer may issue the juvenile a warning and release them, detain the juvenile until a parent or guardian arrives, then release the child into their custody, or refer the case to the prosecuting attorney of the juvenile court.

What happens in the juvenile justice system depends on multiple factors, including juvenile history, age, the seriousness of the offense, the strength of the evidence, and the parent’s ability to impact their child’s behavior.

The prosecutor may not seek to file charges but instead, ask the judge to subject the minor to an informal process. The judge may lecture the child, require them to complete counseling, classes, or community service, pay victim restitution or fines, or place them on probation. Subject to compliance and completion, no charges will be filed against the minor.

For more serious crimes, the prosecutor may petition the juvenile court for adjudication. The child would be formally charged in arraignment and either allowed to remain at home or ordered to stay in a juvenile detention facility until the case is dispensed.

The child may be allowed to enter into a plea agreement, or the judge may retain jurisdiction over the case while the minor completes counseling or other required activities. If the case is adjudicated, the prosecuting attorney and the juvenile’s defense attorney will present their cases before the judge. If the judge finds the juvenile in violation of the law, the court sustains the prosecution’s delinquency petition and dispenses punishment. This could include detention in a juvenile facility, victim restitution, psychological evaluation, counseling, or a term of supervised probation.  

If the judge determines that the minor should be tried as an adult, the case will be referred out of the juvenile justice system and to the prosecuting attorney for adjudication in the regular criminal court.

When Can a Juvenile

Be Tried as an Adult?

In Washington, the prosecutor may recommend to the judge referral to adult court if the minor is 15 years old or older and is charged with a serious violent offense. Defendants ages 14 and younger may be tried as adults if charged with murder in the first or second degree.

If a minor has a prior conviction in adult court, they are no longer considered juvenile delinquents. They will be tried as adults for any subsequent criminal charge. 

Are Parents Liable

for Their Children’s Crimes?

Washington has a parental liability law that holds parents civilly—but not criminally—responsible for their minor children’s actions under specific circumstances.

If a child willfully or maliciously inflicts injury on someone or willfully or maliciously damages someone’s personal or real property, the parents can be sued in civil court for the injuries and damages inflicted by their minor children.

This does not mean that if your 16-year-old runs a red light while texting and causes a crash that injures someone else, you can be sued for personal injury and property damage (although if your child is on your auto insurance liability policy, the victim can file a claim against your liability coverage). Only in cases where your child’s actions are malicious or willful can you be held legally responsible for them.

Juvenile Crimes Attorney Serving Kennewick, WA

If your minor child has been detained for a delinquency offense or charged with one, the best thing you can do is hire a criminal defense attorney who handles juvenile cases. You and your child will benefit from the experience and legal counsel an attorney like Nicholas George can provide.
How your child weathers a juvenile delinquency charge is critical to their future. Call Nicholas George Law Firm PLLC in Kennewick, Washington now.