Texas Juvenile Law
In Texas, juveniles are defined as minors, older than 10 years of age and under the age of 17. Juveniles are treated differently than adult offenders and the general goal of the juvenile system is rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. However, the penalties in the juvenile system can still be severe. Some offenses, such as truancy and breaking curfew, are unique to juveniles, and would not be illegal if the accused were an adult. The juvenile justice system generally moves much more quickly than does the adult criminal justice system. Don’t wait to hire a good juvenile defense lawyer to represent your child.
There are separate courts and rules that govern the juvenile process. The juvenile court system will generally make every effort to rehabilitate the child rather than simply incarcerate him. Only in extreme cases, such as serious felonies, usually involving allegations of violence or the use of a deadly weapon, will a juvenile be tried as an adult. The juvenile courts may hold a hearing to determine whether to transfer the juvenile to the adult court system. This is called a “transfer hearing.” The court will base its decision to transfer on the following factors:
- The seriousness of the offense
- The child’s criminal sophistication
- Previous criminal record
- Previous attempts to rehabilitate the juvenile offender
- The court’s belief that future attempts at rehabilitation will be unsuccessful
While many of the laws governing juveniles may differ from the adult system, the rights that juveniles enjoy are virtually identical to those enjoyed by adults.
- A juvenile must be read his Miranda rights if placed under arrest.
- A juvenile has the right to have an attorney present during interrogation.
- A juvenile has the right to know the specific charges being brought by the State.
- A juvenile has rights against self-incrimination.
- A juvenile has the right to confront his accuser and examine witnesses.
- A juvenile has the right to appeal the court’s decision.
- A juvenile does have the right to a jury trial during the adjudication phase
If a juvenile finds herself in a situation involving the police or other law enforcement, please remember the following information:
- You do not have to submit to a search unless you have been placed under arrest.
If you are asked to give permission to search you should politely but firmly decline. If the police say they have a search warrant, ask to see it.
- Do not resist arrest.
- Do not volunteer information or answer questions without your attorney present.
- Provide only your name, address, and phone number.
- Call your parents as soon as possible.
- Insist that your parents and an attorney be present during questioning.
- Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your attorney.Do not discuss your case with your friends or classmates.
Finally, do not attempt to represent yourself in court. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, preferably one who is board-certified in criminal law.
Texas Juvenile Justice: Overview
Taking Into Custody; Issuance of Warning Notice: Texas Family Code Section 52.01
A child may be taken into custody: pursuant to an order of the juvenile court; pursuant to the Texas laws for arrest; by a law enforcement officer if there is probable cause to believe that the child has engaged in conduct that violates the penal laws of Texas or any political subdivision or delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision. It is the duty of the law enforcement officer who has taken a child into custody to transport the child to the appropriate detention facility if the child is not released to the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child. If the juvenile detention facility is located outside the county in which the child is taken into custody, it shall be the duty of the law enforcement officer who has taken the child into custody or, if authorized by the commissioners court of the county, the sheriff of that county, to transport the child to the appropriate juvenile detention facility unless the child is released to the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child.
Delinquent Conduct: Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision:
Texas Family Code Section 51.03
(a) Delinquent conduct is defined as:
- conduct, other than a traffic offense, that violates a penal law of Texas or of the United States punishable by imprisonment or by confinement in jail;
- conduct that violates a lawful order of a municipal court or justice court under circumstances that would constitute contempt of that court;
- conduct that constitutes: Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Flying While Intoxicated, Boating While Intoxicated, Intoxication Assault, Intoxication Manslaughter, and Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol by a minor (DUI).
(b) Conduct indicating a need for supervision includes:
- conduct, other than a traffic offense, that violates the penal laws of Texas of the grade of misdemeanor that are punishable by a fine only (class c-misdemeanors); the penal ordinances of any political subdivision of Texas; the absence of a child on 10 or more days or parts of days within a 6 month period in the same school year or on 3 or more days or parts of days within a 4 week period from school; the voluntary absence of a child from the child’s home without the consent of the child’s parents or guardian for a substantial length of time or without intent to return; conduct prohibited by city ordinance or by state law involving the inhalation of the fumes or vapors of paint; or an act that violates a school district’s previously communicated written standards of student conduct for which the child has been expelled under Section 37.007(c), Texas Education Code.
Release from Detention: Texas Family Code Section 53.02
(a) If a child is brought before the court or delivered to a detention facility, the intake or other authorized officer of the court shall immediately make an investigation and shall release the child unless it appears that his detention is warranted under subsection (b), below.
The release may be conditioned upon requirements reasonably necessary to insure the child’s appearance at later proceedings, but the conditions of the release must be in writing and filed with the office or official designated by the court and a copy furnished to the child.
(b) A child taken into custody may be detained prior to hearing on the petition only if:
- the child is likely to abscond or be removed from the court’s jurisdiction;
- suitable supervision, care, or protection for the child is not being provided by a parent, guardian, custodian, or other person;
- the child has no parent, guardian, custodian, or other person able to return the child to the court when required;
- the child may be dangerous to himself or herself or the child may threaten the safety of the public if released;
- the child has previously been found to be a delinquent child or has previously been convicted of a penal offense punishable by a term in jail or prison and is likely to commit an offense if released; or
- the child’s detention is required under subsection (f), below.
(c) If the child is not released, a request for detention hearing shall be made and promptly presented to the court, and an informal detention hearing shall be held promptly, but not later than the second working day after the child is taken into custody. If the child is taken into custody on a Friday or Saturday, then the detention hearing shall be held on the first working day after the child is taken into custody.
(d) A release of a child to an adult must be conditioned on the agreement of the adult to be subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and to an order of contempt by the court if the adult, after notification, is unable to produce the child at later proceedings.
(e) If a child being released under this section is expelled from school in a county with a population greater than 125,000, the release shall be conditioned on the child’s attending a juvenile justice alternative education program pending a deferred prosecution or formal court disposition of the child’s case.
(f) A child who is alleged to have engaged in delinquent conduct and to have used, possessed, or exhibited a firearm in the commission of the offense shall be detained until the child is released at the direction of the judge of the juvenile court, a substitute judge, or a referee appointed, including an oral direction by telephone, or until a detention hearing is held.
Detention Hearing: Texas Family Code Section 54.01
(a) Generally speaking, a detention hearing without a jury shall be held promptly, but not later than the second working day after the child is taken into custody; provided, however, that when a child is detained on a Friday or Saturday, then such detention hearing shall be held on the first working day after the child is taken into custody.
(b) Reasonable notice of the detention hearing, either oral or written, shall be given, stating the time, place, and purpose of the hearing. Notice shall be given to the child and, if they can be found, to his parents, guardian, or custodian. Prior to the beginning of the hearing, the court shall inform the parties of the child’s right to counsel and to appointed counsel if they are indigent and of the child’s right to remain silent with respect to any allegations of delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision.
(c) At the detention hearing, the court may consider written reports from probation officers, professional court employees, or by professional consultants in addition to the testimony of witnesses. Prior to the detention hearing, the court shall provide the attorney for the child with access to all written matter to be considered by the court in making the detention decision. The court may order counsel not to reveal items to the child or his parents if such disclosure would materially harm the treatment and rehabilitation of the child or would substantially decrease the likelihood of receiving information from the same or similar sources in the future.
(d) A detention hearing may be held without the presence of the child’s parents if the court has been unable to locate them. If no parent or guardian is present, the court shall appoint counsel or a guardian ad litem for the child.
(e) At the conclusion of the hearing the court shall order the child released from detention unless it appears that he is likely to abscond, suitable supervision is not being provided to the child, he has no parent or guardian able to return the child to court when required, he may be dangerous to himself or others, or he has previously been found to be a delinquent child or has been previously convicted of a penal offense higher than a Class C misdemeanor and is likely to commit an offense if released. If the judge concludes that the child should be detained, the detention order extends for no more than 10 working days. Further detention orders may be made following subsequent detention hearings. The initial detention hearing may not be waived, but subsequent detention hearing may be waived.
Note: No statement made by the child at the detention hearing shall be admissible against the child at any other hearing.
Preliminary Investigation & Determinations; Notice to Parents:
Texas Family Code Section 53.01
On referral of a child, the intake officer, probation officer, or other person authorized by the court shall conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether the person referred is a child and whether there is probable cause to believe that the child engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision. If it is determined that the person is not a child or there is no probable cause, the person shall immediately be released. The child’s parents are to promptly receive notice of the whereabouts of the child and also a statement explaining why the child was taken into custody. If the child is alleged to have engaged in delinquent conduct of the grade of felony, or conduct constituting a misdemeanor offense involving violence to a person or the use or possession of a firearm, illegal knife, or club, then the case is immediately forwarded to the office of the prosecuting attorney.
Summons: Texas Family Code Section 53.06
The juvenile court shall direct issuance of a summons to the child named in the petition, the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian, the child’s guardian ad litem, and any other person who appears to the court to be a proper or necessary party to the proceeding. A party, other than the child, may waive service of summons by written stipulation or by voluntary appearance at the hearing.
Service of Summons: Texas Family Code Section 53.07
If a person to be served with a summons is in Texas and can be found, the summons shall be served upon him personally at least 2 days before the adjudication hearing. If he is in Texas but cannot be found, but his address is known or can be ascertained, the summons may be served on him by mailing a copy by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, at least 5 days before the day of the hearing. If he is outside Texas but can be found or his address is known, service of the summons may be made either by delivering a copy to him personally or mailing a copy to him by registered mail, return receipt requested, at least 5 days before the day of the adjudication hearing.
Attendance at Hearing: Parent or Other Guardian: Texas Family Code Section 51.115
Parents or guardians of a child are required by law to attend each court hearing affecting a child held under: possible transfer to criminal district/adult court; adjudication hearing; disposition hearing; hearing to modify disposition; release or transfer hearing. If a parent or guardian receives notice of any of these proceedings and is a resident of Texas, failure to appear could result in a fine for contempt of court.
Photographs & Fingerprints of Children: Texas Family Code Sections 58.002-0021
With limited exceptions, a child may not be photographed or fingerprinted without the consent of the juvenile court unless the child is taken into custody or referred to the juvenile court for conduct that constitutes a felony or a misdemeanor punishable by confinement in jail (which means a Class A or Class B misdemeanor). However, this prohibition does not prohibit law enforcement from photographing or fingerprinting a child who is not in custody if the child’s parent or guardian voluntarily consents in writing. Furthermore, this prohibition does not apply to fingerprints that are required or authorized to be submitted or obtained for an application for a driver’s license or personal identification card.
Note/Exception to General Rule stated above: Law enforcement may take temporary custody of a child to take the child’s fingerprints if the officer: has probable cause to believe that the child has engaged in delinquent conduct; the officer has investigated that conduct and found other fingerprints during the investigation; and the officer has probable cause to believe that the child’s fingerprints will match the other fingerprints. Law enforcement may take temporary custody of a child to take the child’s photograph if the officer: has probable cause to believe that the child has engaged in delinquent conduct; and the officer has probable cause to believe that the child’s photograph will be of material assistance in the investigation of the conduct. However, in either instance, unless the child then placed under arrest, the child must be released from temporary custody as soon as the fingerprints or photographs are obtained.
Waiver of Rights: Texas Family Code Section 51.09
Unless a contrary intent clearly appears elsewhere in the Family Code, any right granted to a child by this Section or by the constitution or laws of Texas or the United States may be waived in proceedings under this section if:
- the waiver is made by the child and the attorney for the child;
- the child and the attorney waiving the right are informed of and understand the right and the possible consequences of waiving it;
- the waiver is voluntary; and
- the waiver is made in writing or in court proceedings that are recorded.
Polygraph Examination: Texas Family Code Section 51.151
If a child is taken into custody pursuant to an order of the juvenile court or pursuant to the laws of arrest by a law enforcement officer, a person may not administer a polygraph examination to the child without the consent of the child’s attorney or the juvenile court unless the child is transferred to a criminal district court for prosecution in the adult system. Bottom line: Do not consent to a polygraph examination without consulting with your lawyer.
Physical or Mental Examination: Texas Family Code Section 51.20
(a) At any stage of the proceedings the juvenile court may order a child who is referred to the juvenile court or who is alleged by a petition or found to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision to be examined by the local mental health or mental retardation authority or another appropriate expert, including a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist.
(b) If, after conducting an examination of a child and reviewing any other relevant information, there is reason to believe that the child has a mental illness or mental retardation, the probation department shall refer the child to the local mental health or mental retardation authority for evaluation and services, unless the prosecutor has filed a court petition against the child alleging delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision.
Election Between Juvenile Court & Alternate Juvenile Court:
Texas Family Code Section 51.18
(a) This section applies only to a child who has a right to a trial before a juvenile court the judge of which is not an attorney licensed to practice in Texas.
(b) On any matter that may lead to an order appealable under Section 56.01 of the Family Code, a child may be tried before either the juvenile court or the alternate juvenile court.
(c) The child may elect to be tried before the alternate juvenile court only if the child files a written notice with that court not later than 10 days before the date of the trial. After the notice is filed, the child may be tried only in the alternate juvenile court. If the child does not file a notice as provided by this section, the child may be tried only in the juvenile court.
(d) If the child is tried before the juvenile court, the child is not entitled to a trial de novo before the alternate juvenile court.
Transfer/Waiver: Texas Family Code Section 54.02
The juvenile court may waive its exclusive original jurisdiction and transfer a child to the appropriate criminal district court to be tried as an adult if the child is alleged to have violated a penal law of the grade of felony if the child was 14 years of age or older at the time he is alleged to have committed the offense, if the offense is a capital felony, an aggravated controlled substance felony, or a felony of the first degree; or 15 years of age or older at the time the child is alleged to have committed the offense, if the offense is a felony of the second or third degree or a state jail felony.
The juvenile court judge is not required to certify a child to stand trial as an adult. It’s a judgment call. The juvenile court judge will investigate the matter and hold a hearing on the transfer request. The judge orders a complete diagnostic study, social evaluation, and a full investigation of the child, his circumstances, and the circumstances of the alleged offense. At the transfer hearing the court may consider written reports from probation officers, professional court employees, or professional consultants in addition to the testimony of witnesses. In making her decision whether to transfer the case to the adult court, the judge considers: (1) whether the alleged offense was against person or property, with greater weight in favor of transfer given to offenses against a person; (2) the sophistication and maturity of the child; (3) the record and previous history of the child; and (4) the prospects of adequate protection of the public and the likelihood of the rehabilitation of the child by use or procedures, services, and facilities currently available to the juvenile court.
Determinate Sentencing: Texas Family Code Section 53.045
If a child is accused of a very serious criminal violation, or habitual felony conduct (see section below), the prosecutor can pursue what is called determinate sentencing. In order to pursue determinate sentencing the prosecutor files a petition with the grand jury, basically asking the grand jury to grant the prosecutor’s request to pursue determinate sentencing if the child is convicted. If 9 members of the grand jury approve the petition, then determinate sentencing becomes a viable sentencing option for the judge/jury if the child is convicted of the offense. Determinate sentencing doesn’t mean that the child will be tried as an adult in a criminal district court. The case remains in the juvenile court even if the grand jury grants the request for determinate sentencing. but the stakes for the child are raised dramatically if the grand jury grants the prosecutor’s petition for determinate sentencing.
Eligibility: The prosecutor can pursue determinate sentencing if the child is charged with habitual felony conduct, or if the child is charged with any of the following offenses:
capital murder, murder, manslaughter, aggravated kidnapping, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, injury to a child, elderly, or disabled individual if punishable as a felony other than a state jail felony, felony deadly conduct involving the discharge of a firearm, aggravated controlled substance felony, criminal solicitation of a minor, indecency with a child, arson, if bodily injury or death is suffered by any person by reason of the commission of the arson, intoxication manslaughter, or attempted murder or attempted capital murder. If your child is charged with one of the offenses listed above, she is eligible for determinate sentencing even if this is her first offense.
Impact: If the grand jury grants the prosecutor’s request to impose determinate sentencing, and the child is convicted of habitual felony conduct or any of the offenses listed above, then the court or jury may sentence the child to commitment in the Texas Youth Commission with a possible transfer to the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (adult prison system) for a term of: up to 40 years if the conduct constitutes a capital felony, first-degree felony, or an aggravated controlled substance felony; up to 20 years if the conduct constitutes a second-degree felony; and up to 10 years if the conduct constitutes a third-degree felony. So instead of being sent to the Texas Youth Commission until the child turns 18, determinate sentencing would allow the child to be sentenced to up to 40 years in the adult prison system by a judge or jury.
Habitual Felony Conduct: Texas Family Code Section 51.031
(a) Habitual felony conduct is conduct violating a penal law of the grade of felony, other than a state jail felony, if:
- the child who engaged in the conduct has at least 2 previous final adjudications as having engaged in delinquent conduct violating a penal law of the grade of felony; and,
- the second previous final adjudication is for conduct that occurred after the date the first previous adjudication became final; and,
- all appeals relating to the previous adjudications have been exhausted.
Review by Prosecutor: Texas Family Code Section 53.012
The prosecuting attorney shall promptly review the circumstances and allegations of a referral made to her for legal sufficiency and the desirability of prosecution and may file a petition without regard to whether probable cause was found during the court’s preliminary investigation.
If the prosecutor does not file a petition requesting the adjudication of the child referred to the prosecutor, the prosecutor must terminate all proceedings, if the reason is for the lack of probable cause; or return the referral to the juvenile probation department for further proceedings.
The prosecutors have considerable discretion and control over your child’s case.
Deferred Prosecution: Texas Family Code Section 53.03
(a) Subject to subsections (e) and (g) below, if the preliminary investigation results in a determination that further proceedings in the case are authorized, the probation officer or other designated officer of the court, subject to the direction of the juvenile court, may advise the parties for a reasonable period of time not to exceed 6 months concerning deferred prosecution and rehabilitation of a child if:
- deferred prosecution would be in the best interest of the public and child;
- the child and her parent, guardian, or custodian consent with knowledge that consent is not obligatory; and
- the child and his parent, guardian, or custodian are informed that they may terminate the deferred prosecution at any point and petition the court for a court hearing in the case.
(b) Except as otherwise permitted, the child may not be detained during or as a result of the deferred prosecution process.
(c) An incriminating statement made by a participant to the person giving advice and in the discussion or conferences incident thereto may not be used against the declarant in any court hearing.
(d) The court may adopt a fee schedule for deferred prosecution services. The maximum fee is $15 per month.
(e) The prosecuting attorney may defer prosecution for any child. A probation officer or other designated officer of the court may defer prosecution for a child who has previously been adjudicated for conduct that constitutes a felony only if the prosecuting attorney consents in writing.
(f) The probation officer or other officer supervising a program of deferred prosecution for a child shall report to the juvenile court any violation by the child of the program.
(g) Prosecution may not be deferred for a child alleged to have engaged in conduct that constitutes: driving/flying/boating while intoxicated, intoxication assault, intoxication manslaughter, or that constitutes a third or subsequent offense of consumption of alcohol by a minor or driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) of a minor.
First Offender Program: Texas Family Code Section 52.031
A juvenile board may establish a first offender program for the referral and disposition of children taken into custody for: (1) conduct indicating a need for supervision; or (2) delinquent conduct other than conduct that constitutes a felony of the first, second, or third degree, an aggravated controlled substance felony, or a capital felony; or a state jail felony or misdemeanor involving violence to a person or the use or possession of a firearm, illegal knife, or club, or a prohibited weapon, as described by Section 46.05, Texas Penal Code. If the child has previously been adjudicated as having engaged in delinquent conduct he may be ineligible for the First Offender Program. Also, the child’s parents or guardian must receive notice that the child has been referred for disposition under the First Offender Program.
Teen Court Program: Texas Family Code Section 54.032
A juvenile court may defer adjudication proceedings during an adjudication hearing for not more than 180 days if the child:
(1) is alleged to have engaged in conduct indicating a need for supervision that violated a penal law of Texas of the grade of misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine only or a penal ordinance of a political subdivision of Texas;
(2) waives the privilege against self-incrimination and testifies under oath that the allegations are true;
(3) presents to the court an oral or written request to attend a teen court program; and
(4) has not successfully completed a teen court program for the violation of the same penal law or ordinance in the two years preceding the date that the alleged conduct occurred.
Note: The teen court program must be approved by the court.
Adjudication Hearing: Texas Family Code Section 54.03
This is what is commonly referred to as the “guilty-not guilty” phase of a trial. A child may be found to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision only after an adjudication hearing. The child is presumed innocent unless and until the prosecution proves that the child is guilty of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof is on the state. The verdict must be unanimous.
At the beginning of an adjudication hearing the juvenile court judge shall explain to the child and his parent, guardian, or guardian ad litem: the allegations made against the child; the nature and possible consequences of the proceedings; the child’s privilege against self-incrimination; the child’s right to trial and to confront witnesses; the child’s right to representation by an attorney if he is not already represented; and the child’s right to a trial by jury.
Only material, relevant, and competent evidence in accordance with the Texas Rules of Criminal Evidence may be considered in an adjudication hearing. Hearsay testimony is generally not admissible. A statement made by the child out of court is insufficient to support a finding of delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision unless it is corroborated in whole or in part by other evidence. An adjudication of delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision cannot be had upon testimony of an accomplice unless corroborated by other evidence tending to connect the child with the alleged delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision; and the corroboration is not sufficient if it merely shows the commission of the alleged conduct. Finally, evidence illegally seized or obtained is inadmissible in an adjudication hearing.
A child may be found guilty of committing a lesser-included offense of the offense charged.
If the judge or jury finds that the child did engage in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision, then the court or jury shall state which of the allegations in the petition were found to be established by the evidence. The court will then set a date and time for the disposition hearing.
If the judge or jury finds that the child did not engage in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision, the court shall dismiss the case with prejudice.
Disposition Hearing: Texas Family Code Section 54.04
This term can be confusing. What we’re talking about here is the “sentencing” phase of the proceedings. The disposition hearing only comes into play if the child has been found guilty of the delinquent conduct or criminal activity alleged in the petition. If the child is found not guilty of all allegations during the adjudication hearing then there is no disposition hearing.
The disposition hearing is separate, distinct, and subsequent to the adjudication hearing. There is no right to a jury at the disposition hearing unless the child is in jeopardy of a determinate sentence as approved by the grand jury. If the child is eligible for determinate sentencing, then the child is entitled to a jury of 12 persons to determine the sentence.
At the disposition hearing, the juvenile court may consider written reports from probation officers, professional court employees, or professional consultants in addition to the testimony of witnesses. Prior to the disposition hearing, the child’s lawyer is to have received all written matter to be considered in disposition. No disposition may be made unless the child is in need of rehabilitation or the protection of the public or the child requires that disposition be made. No disposition placing the child on probation outside the child’s home may be made under this section unless the court or jury finds that the child, in the child’s home, cannot be provided the quality of care and level of support and supervision that the child needs to meet the conditions of probation. If the judge or jury grant probation, the court will attach various conditions of the probation. Depending on the nature of the charges and the child’s criminal history, if probation is not granted, the child could be sentenced to a term of confinement in the Texas Youth Commission.
Payment of Probation Fees: Texas Family Code Section 54.061
If a child is placed on probation, the juvenile court, after giving the child, parent, or other person responsible for the child’s support, a reasonable opportunity to be heard, shall order the child, parent, or other person, if financially able to do so, to pay to the court a fee of not more than $15 a month during the period that the child continues on probation. If the court finds that a child, parent, or other person responsible for the child’s support is financially unable to pay the probation fee, the court shall enter into the records of the child’s case a statement of that finding.
Monitoring School Attendance: Texas Family Code Section 54.043
If the court places a child on probation and requires as a condition of probation that the child attend school, the probation officer shall monitor the child’s school attendance and report to the court if the child is voluntarily absent from school.
Restitution: Texas Family Code Section 54.048
A juvenile court, in a disposition hearing, may order restitution to be made by the child and the child’s parents. This applies regardless of whether the petition in the case contains a plea for restitution.
Admission of Unadjudicated Conduct: Section 54.045
During a disposition hearing, a child may admit having engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision for which the child has not been adjudicated and request the court to take the admitted conduct into account in the disposition of the child’s pending case. If the prosecutor agrees in writing, then the court may take the admitted conduct into account in the disposition of the child. However, a court may take into account admitted conduct over with exclusive venue lies in another county only if the court obtains the written permission of the prosecuting attorney for that county. A child may not be adjudicated by any court for having engaged in conduct taken into account under this section unless the conduct taken into account included conduct that took place in another county and the written permission of the prosecuting attorney of that county was not obtained.
Community Service: Texas Family Code Section 54.044
If the court places a child on probation, the court shall require as a condition of probation that the child work a specified number of hours at a community service project approved by the court and designated by the juvenile probation department. This requirement may be waived if the court finds that the child is physically or mentally incapable of participating in the project or that participating in the project will be a hardship on the child or his family or that the child has shown good cause that community service should not be required.
Note: The court may also order that the child’s parent perform community service with the child.
Child Placed on Probation for Conduct Involving a Handgun:
Texas Family Code Section 54.0406
(a) If a court or jury places a child on probation for conduct that violates a penal law that includes as an element of the offense the possession, carrying, using, or exhibiting of a handgun, and if at the adjudication hearing the court or the jury affirmatively finds that the child personally possessed, carried, used, or exhibited a handgun, the court must require as a condition of probation that the child, not later than the 30th day after the date the court places the child on probation, notify the juvenile probation officer who is supervising the child of the manner in which the child acquired the handgun, including the date and place of any person involved in the acquisition. The juvenile probation officer is then to relay any relevant information regarding the handgun to the police. Your lawyer should be with you when this takes place.
Note: Information provided by the child to the juvenile probation officer regarding the acquisition of the handgun and any other information derived from that information may not be used as evidence against the child in any juvenile or criminal proceeding.
Rights of Appeal: Warning: Texas Family Code Section 54.034
Before the court may accept a child’s plea or stipulation of evidence in a proceeding under this title, the court must inform the child that if the court accepts the plea or stipulation and the court makes a disposition in accordance with the agreement between the state and the child regarding the disposition of the case, the child may not appeal an order of the court pursuant to an adjudication hearing, a disposition hearing, or a hearing to modify disposition, unless the court gives the child permission to appeal; or the appeal is based on a matter raised by written motion filed before the proceeding in which the child entered the plea or agreed to the stipulation of evidence. An appeal from an order of a juvenile court is to the court of appeals and the case may be carried to the Texas Supreme Court by writ of error or upon certificate, as in civil cases generally. The requirements governing a juvenile appeal are as in civil cases generally.
Note: An appeal does not suspend the order of the juvenile court, nor does it release the child from the custody of that court or of the person, institution, or agency to whose care the child is committed, unless the juvenile court so orders. However, the appellate court may provide for a personal bond pending the appeal.
Sealing Juvenile Records: Texas Family Code Section 58.003
One of the most important things that can be done for a juvenile is to get the juvenile records sealed as soon as allowed by law.
The benefits of sealing a child’s juvenile records are immense. Once the records are sealed, information relating to the arrest, detention, prosecution, and conviction, are physically sealed and/or destroyed. This means that the child can start adulthood with a “clean” slate. And it also means that the child is authorized by law to say that he has never been convicted.
Section 58.003 of the Texas Family Code provides that, except for juveniles who received a determinate sentence for engaging in delinquent conduct that violated a penal law such as murder, capital murder, manslaughter, aggravated kidnapping, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated assault, injury to a child/elderly/disabled person, arson, indecency with a child, etc., or engaged in habitual felony conduct, the juvenile records may be sealed if the court finds that 2 years have elapsed since final discharge of the person or since the last official action in the person’s case if there was no adjudication; and if since that time the person has not been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or found to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision and no proceeding is pending seeking conviction or adjudication.
A court may also order the sealing of records concerning a juvenile adjudicated as having engaged in delinquent conduct that violated a penal law of the grade of felony (not including many determinate sentences) if: the person is 21 years of age or older; the person was not transferred by a juvenile court to an adult criminal court for prosecution; the records have not been used as evidence in the punishment phase of a criminal proceeding under Article 37.07, Code of Texas Criminal Procedure; and if the person has not been convicted of a penal law of the grade of felony after becoming age 17.
If a child is referred to the juvenile court for conduct constituting any offense and at the adjudication hearing (guilt/innocence) the child is found to be not guilty of each offense alleged, the court shall immediately order the sealing of all files and records relating to the case.
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