Virginia law generally treats juvenile defendants differently than adults, making it especially important to find an attorney with the experience and knowledge required to handle these unique cases.
A skilled juvenile defense attorney is oftentimes a litigator and a counselor, who works with the family to identify any issues that may impede a child’s growth. While the courts and the public generally want to punish the child for their wrong doings, they also want to identify and address any problems that may exist in the child’s life to help him or her become a productive adult.
Judges aren't the only ones with discretion in juvenile defendant cases. Before cases make it to Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, police officers often have the power to choose whether or not to refer a juvenile defendant to court. They can:
- Detain the minor and warn him or her about the consequences of committing the crime(s) and then release them;
- Detain and hold the minor until the minor’s parent(s) or guardian(s) arrive to take custody; or
- Take the minor into custody and refer the charges to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
If the charges are referred to Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, an intake officer will review the charges and make a decision as to whether to recommend the matters be handled informally through Juvenile Intake or, more formally, through the courts.
While most juveniles, or defendants under 18 years of age, are tried in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, it is possible for their charges to be transferred to Circuit Court, where they would be tried as an adult. (Defendants must be at least fourteen years of age at the time of the offense in order to possibly be tried as an adult.) This can happen with any felony but is most common with violent felonies. All judges in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court have the discretion to transfer the charges to Circuit Court or to resolve the matter in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
The attorneys at Smith Law Firm, PLC have over 60 years of combined experience in representing juveniles charged with crimes in Virginia. It is important to understand the impact and severity of the charges your child may be facing. The attorneys at Smith Law Firm, PLC are dedicated to providing a comprehensive strategy. Please contact one of the attorneys for a free consultation.