The Texas justice system makes a distinction between adults and juveniles. Texas defines a juvenile as anyone at least 10 years old but younger than 17 when committing a crime. Children have less understanding of how the justice system works, and this is taken into account when dealing with juvenile offenders. There is an effort to balance the need for punishment and rehabilitation when dealing with juveniles.
It helps to know the differences between the adult and juvenile systems when seeking criminal defense. Perhaps you’re an adult facing a criminal charge. Or maybe your child is accused of a crime. Understand that adults and juveniles receive different treatment under Texas law.
Differences in terminology
Different terms describe the crimes of adults and juveniles. An adult offender is said to commit a crime. But a juvenile offender commits a delinquent act.
Legal rights in a court of law
Juveniles and adults have different legal rights. An adult has the right to a trial by jury, with the jury consisting of their peers. That right doesn’t extend to a juvenile. Instead, a juvenile has an adjudication hearing heard by a judge. A juvenile also doesn’t have the right to a public trial or bail.
Legal protection in proceedings
The Texas court usually seals the criminal record of a juvenile when they turn 18 or 19. The court seldom seals the criminal record of an adult. It takes a request and a court order to have a juvenile record erased.
An exception to the rule
A juvenile may face trial as an adult under certain circumstances. For example, a juvenile who commits aggravated murder might face trial as an adult. A judge decides if the juvenile faces trial as an adult or juvenile.
Whether you are a juvenile or an adult, the legal system protects your rights. Do your best to understand the process before you face a judge.