The primary goal of the Texas juvenile justice system is to provide the public with safety and protection by promoting accountability and punishment for juvenile offenders, while also providing rehabilitation, so they can re-enter society as productive citizens. If certain conditions are met, a juvenile’s record may be expunged (sealed) when the child reaches adulthood. The juvenile justice system is outlined in the Texas Family Code rather than in the Texas Penal Code.
Juvenile Versus Adult Justice Systems
There are stark differences between the juvenile and adult justice systems. Juvenile courts are conducted through adjudication hearings by judges instead of by jury trials, the courts accept petitions of delinquency rather than criminal complaints, youthful offenders commit delinquent acts instead of crimes, and judges decide the case’s disposition as to whether a child is guilty or not guilty instead of a verdict handed down by a jury. There are many more differences between the two justice systems, which are too numerous to mention here. The main thing to understand is that the goal of the state is to rehabilitate and protect your child, so they can move on with their lives.
How a Child Enters the System
There are several ways in which a child enters the juvenile justice system. The 3 main categories are Non-Offenders (often includes children who have been neglected or abused by parents or guardians), Status Offenders (juveniles who commit an act of non-criminal behavior), and Juvenile Delinquent Offenders (juveniles who commit a crime that would be criminally prosecuted if they were an adult).
A Juvenile Certified as an Adult
Not all juvenile offenders ultimately end up in the juvenile justice system. There are exceptions, of course, and sometimes it is necessary for a child to be tried as an adult. For this to happen, the juvenile court may waive its original jurisdiction and transfer the child to an adult criminal district court through a proceeding referred to as a transfer or certification hearing. In Texas, a child may be tried in an adult criminal court for a felony offense if there is probable cause to believe that the child committed the offense, and the juvenile court believes that the child’s background or the seriousness of the offense requires adult criminal proceedings. This happens rarely in the state of Texas, and typically is limited to the most serious types of felony offenses.
The juvenile justice system heavily involves the parents of the juvenile offender. With parental involvement, the child stands a better chance of being rehabilitated and a much higher chance of success as an adult.