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How juvenile justice differs from adult justice in Texas

The criminal justice system is confusing, even for those facing straightforward charges. When a criminal offense involves complicating factors, such as a teenage offender, the system may become much more convoluted and difficult to understand.

Many people lack an understanding of how Texas really handles juvenile offenses and approaches juvenile justice. Contrary to popular belief, juvenile offenses do not receive identical treatment to adult offenses. The focus is not solely on incarceration and punishment.

Instead, the courts will evaluate the situation to determine whether the alleged offender should receive juvenile or adult charges. Charges that go through the adult court system in Texas will wind up handled like any other criminal offense. Those charged as juveniles, however, will receive different treatment and options than adult offenders accused of similar offenses.

Texas juvenile justice focuses on rehabilitation, not punishment

The adult criminal justice system in Texas has a focus on penalties. The point is to punish those who violate the law. Doing so not only allows someone the opportunity to pay a debt to society for acting outside the bounds of the law, but it serves as a deterrent for others considering similar criminal acts.

When it comes to juvenile offenders, the approach is very different. The Texas penal system has a focus more on preventing that teenager from recidivism than simply punishing them for a youthful mistake. There are many programs that can help those facing certain offenses - ranging from drug offenses to assault charges - better understand their mistake and how to improve their behavior.

Juvenile justice cases often combine punishment with education, therapy and even community service. This approach helps younger offenders see how their actions affect the community and understand the internal processes that led to their mistake. That, in turn, can help them make better decisions in the future.

By focusing on rehabilitation and community service, the juvenile justice system offers younger offenders the opportunity to change the direction of their life and move on if they learn from their mistakes. In many cases, young offenders who respond well to interventions can have their juvenile record sealed as a means of protecting their future.

Parents still need to take juvenile offenses seriously

Just because the penalties for and approach to juvenile justice vary from the adult criminal justice system does not mean that you shouldn't take juvenile offenses seriously. Improperly handled, juvenile criminal convictions can have consequences that bleed over into adulthood, especially cases involving violence or juvenile drug charges.

You want your teenager to learn from their mistakes, not wind up saddled by them for life. Talking to an attorney who has a history of working with the Texas juvenile justice system is a good first step for any parent whose young adult faces pending criminal charges in Texas.

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