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Juvenile Cases

Northwest Indiana Juvenile Defense Lawyer

A juvenile offense occurs when someone under 18 commits what would be a crime if committed by an adult or engages in conduct prohibited for children. Stracci Law Group's criminal defense team has decades of experience serving as lawyers for juveniles. If your child is facing juvenile allegations in Indiana, we are ready to fight for their rights.

While incarceration is frowned upon in the juvenile system, repercussions can still be significant and uncertain. Even minor offenses can result in continued court supervision until the child turns 21. In more serious cases, the State may try to waive the child to adult court or charge them directly as an adult. The assistance of an experienced juvenile defense attorney is absolutely critical.

Types of Juvenile Cases

Juvenile cases can be broken down into three types: delinquency, waiver, and status offenses. All three require relentless defense of your child's rights.

Common juvenile cases include:

  • Underage drinking
  • Vandalism 
  • Drug distribution or possession 
  • Shoplifting 
  • Sex crimes
  • Violent crimes
  • Murder 

Juvenile Delinquency

Almost every act that is a crime if committed by an adult can be the basis for a juvenile delinquency petition. From simple misdemeanors like trespass to major felonies like aggravated battery or sex crimes, the State can allege that the child's actions would have been a crime if they were an adult. 

If the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your child committed such an act, the juvenile court can keep your child on probation, home detention, or secure detention until they turn 21. While your child is "adjudicated" instead of convicted, and the records are considered confidential, a juvenile delinquency determination can follow your child throughout their adult life. 

Delinquency adjudications can interfere with education and employment and deprive your child of constitutional rights later. Just any lawyer for juveniles won't do. You need a juvenile crimes attorney to protect your child's future. 

Juvenile Waiver

When a juvenile delinquency allegation is particularly heinous, the State will usually attempt to "waive" the child into adult court. Typically, the State need only show probable cause that the child committed the act and that they qualify for waiver. The child then must prove that waiver is not in their best interest or the best interests of the community. 

A juvenile waiver hearing requires the presentation of evidence from both sides and often resembles a criminal trial. However, some of the most serious crimes like murder, rape, and armed robbery, bypass the juvenile court and go directly to adult court when the child is at least 16. In either case, your child will need the assistance of a proven criminal defense trial attorney to protect their rights and their future.

Juvenile Status Offenses

Some juvenile offenses are not the equivalent of crimes, but are basically just behavior so bad that it potentially endangers the child or the community. These are juvenile status offenses. This conduct requires court involvement only because the child is a child. 

Juvenile status offenses include: 

  • Truancy (frequently skipping school);
  • Incorrigibility (habitually defying their parents' orders); and 
  • Running away. 

Juvenile status offenses rarely result in secure detention. However, status offenses can often lead to accusations of criminal activity and bind a family to the juvenile court system for years. An experienced juvenile defense attorney can help you keep your child's problem behavior from spiraling into juvenile delinquency.

Juvenile Criminal Procedure

Juvenile criminal processing involves several distinct stages, including:

  • A juvenile probation officer will interview you and your child about their history, home life, and the allegations. This interview is not neutral and your child's answers are not confidential. Anything they say about the case will be provided to the court and to the State. It is vital to secure representation of a juvenile defense attorney before this stage if possible.
  • Release of the juvenile to their parents (in some cases, following a hearing the juvenile remains in detention, however); There is no bond in juvenile court.
  • The juvenile and their parents must attend an initial hearing before the juvenile court. Here, the child can admit or deny the allegations against them. Your child should never admit to a juvenile petition without first consulting a juvenile defense attorney.
  • At or around the initial hearing, the State may file a petition for waiver to adult court. If they do, the court will order evidence turned over to your child's attorney and schedule a waiver hearing.
  • If waiver is not requested or is denied by the court, the judge will likely schedule an evidentiary hearing. Meanwhile, the prosecutor and the juvenile defense attorney will collect evidence and try to negotiate a solution.
  • If the juvenile defense attorney and prosecutor cannot reach an agreement, the court will hold an "evidentiary hearing." This is the equivalent to a trial in juvenile court. Though juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial for delinquency allegations, they do have the right to an attorney, to be present in court, to confront and cross examine the State's witnesses, and to subpoena their own witnesses into court. Even though there is no jury, the State still must prove your child delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt.

At Stracci Law Group, our experience as lawyers for juvenile cases allow us to do everything possible to make the juvenile justice process go smoothly for you and your child, and to protect your child from giving up important rights that may make a difference to their future.

The Outcome of Juvenile Cases

If your child is found to be delinquent, the judge will sentence them, relying heavily on the recommendations of the prosecutor and the probation department. It is critical for a juvenile justice lawyer to present compelling evidence of the child's home life, support system, past behavior outside their juvenile record, education history, mental or emotional conditions, and treatment alternatives to residential placement or incarceration. The juvenile court judge has the power to sentence the juvenile to:

  • Probation, usually with community service and treatment services,
  • Home detention, usually with additional conditions,
  • Placement in a residential treatment center; or
  • Incarceration in a juvenile detention center or the Juvenile Department of Correction.

Defending Minors Against Criminal Charges in Northwest Indiana

Experienced criminal lawyers for juveniles know the critical differences between the juvenile system and the adult criminal system. A quality juvenile criminal defense lawyer will always do these things:

  • Advise your child against speaking to the probation officer about the facts of the allegations;
  • Request ALL of the evidence from the prosecutor, not just a summary;
  • Treat juvenile waiver hearings as the serious, critical phase they are and be prepared to defend against them as though your child's life depended on it;
  • Treat evidentiary hearings like a true criminal trial to give your child the best and fairest outcome possible; and
  • If your child is found delinquent, know you, your child, and your child's strengths and challenges to make the best arguments in favor of treatment over incarceration.

Need to Find a Good Juvenile Defense Lawyer For Your Child? Stracci Law Group can help!

If your child is facing juvenile charges, you need a lawyer who understands the juvenile justice system and possesses extensive experience defending juveniles. Our juvenile criminal defense lawyers are respected in the juvenile courts, resourceful in finding alternatives to detention and waiver, and relentless in defending your child's rights and future.

Why Choose Stracci Law Group?

Our juvenile criminal defense lawyers have established Stracci Law Group as one of the premier juvenile defense law firms in the state of Indiana. Our strengths include:

  • Superb client reviews,
  • Collaborative resources spanning decades of juvenile and criminal defense practice,
  • Uncompromising quality standards, and
  • Unwavering devotion to our clients.

As parents ourselves, we understand the fear and anxiety when your child's future is in danger. Stracci Law Group's juvenile criminal defense attorneys approach every juvenile case as seriously as a major criminal case because, for you and your child, it is.

Juvenile Defense Lawyer Near Me

If your child is facing criminal charges, you have no time to waste. Call Stracci Law Group immediately at (219) 525-1000 or contact us online. Stracci Law Group serves Crown Point and other cities, including Hammond [46320, 46323], Gary [46402, 46404], Portage [46368, 46403], and other counties, cities, and towns in Northwest Indiana.

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FAQ

What is the purpose of the juvenile justice system?

The purpose of juvenile law is not primarily punitive like the adult justice system. The primary goals of the Indiana juvenile justice system are the maintenance of public safety, rehabilitation, skill development, treatment, and successful reintegration of youthful offenders into society.

What rights do I have as a parent?

Not many, unfortunately. In a juvenile proceeding, the State, in many cases, serves as an adversary of the parents. Their juvenile criminal defense attorney represents the child, not the parents, as a matter of law. The lawyer is bound to serve only the child’s best interests.

Do juvenile delinquents deserve a second chance?

Yes. There have been many examples of deeply troubled youth who, after committing brutal crimes, have grown up to become great assets to society. Every juvenile justice attorney, and all those involved in the juvenile justice system, believes that early intervention offers great hope for the successful rehabilitation of youthful offenders.

Which crimes are most often committed by juveniles?

The crimes most often committed by juveniles include:

  1. Theft
  2. Simple assault
  3. Drug offenses
  4. Disorderly conduct
  5. Alcohol offenses

All told, arrests for these offenses total fewer than 150 arrests per 100,000 youths each year.

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