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Juvenile Defense: Everything You Need To Know

Your child’s future may be significantly impacted by being charged with a juvenile crime. In fact, in certain situations, a minor may be charged as an adult. This is especially true if the juvenile is within two years of becoming an adult, charged with a violent crime, or charged with a weapons offense. Therefore, it is essential to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. In Iowa, minors who are charged with criminal offenses have their cases heard within the state's juvenile delinquency system. At Branstad and Olson, we put the best interests of your child first. We will do our best to make sure that he or she is protected throughout the process.

Steps in a Juvenile Delinquency Case

Understanding the steps in a juvenile delinquency case may answer some important questions about the process. To begin, a juvenile court officer collects information. This is called intake. It involves a number of procedures.

  • Conducting interviews with the charged minor and his or her family concerning the legal complaint
  • Conducting interviews with witnesses and victims of the alleged crime
  • Reviewing physical evidence and other information that relates to the crime
  • Interviewing related individuals who support the child to determine what is in his or her best interest

Under certain circumstances, the minor may be taken into custody by the police.

At this point, the case may go to an informal adjustment. If not, a delinquency petition will be filed. After this petition is brought before the court, an adjudication hearing is scheduled. If the judge decides that the minor committed the crime, there is a disposition hearing. At this phase, the court may order probation, restitution, mental treatment, or placement into another facility.

If an informal adjustment was excepted, the complaint is resolved without a court hearing. An agreement may include a number of solutions.

  • Require a child to be supervised by a juvenile probation officer
  • Require a child to receive treatment
  • Prohibit a minor from driving
  • Community service
  • Require a child to pay restitution

If probation is ordered, the minor will need to agree to all conditions. Also, he or she must regularly meet with a court officer. If the probation is completed successfully, the case becomes closed. In worst cases, the court will hold another disposition hearing to order a different punishment. If the court uncovers that the minor is dealing with underlying issues or that the child is a danger to people around him or her, the minor will be placed outside of the home into a mental hospital, foster home, state institution, or residential treatment facility. Parents must understand that there may be requirements imposed on them as well.

Can a Minor Be Sent to Adult Court?

There are cases where a minor may be charged an adult. For example, if a child is facing charges that include violent criminal behavior, he or she may be tried as an adult. Also, a minor who is at least 16 years old and commits a forcible felony is automatically tried as an adult. Iowa law defines a forcible felony as sexual assault, murder, or similar charges.

How are Juvenile Cases Different from Adult Cases?

In a juvenile delinquency case, a minor is not convicted and sentenced. Instead, a minor is "adjudicated delinquent." In other words, a judge examines the entire case and finds that the child violated laws. In place of adult sentencing, a child participates in a disposition hearing. At that point, the court can order probation or can place the minor in some type of treatment program or foster care home. The main objective is to keep the child from committing future crimes.

Working with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney

If your child has been charged with a crime, it is essential to have an experienced legal team on your side. At Branstad & Olson, we have had great success trying minors in juvenile court. It is essential to make sure that your child is protected. Do not allow an immature mistake to affect the rest of his or her life. Let us form a vigorous defense and secure your child’s future.

In the state of Iowa, it is mandatory for a child to retain a lawyer after being charged with a crime. Our team of attorneys understands all of the juvenile delinquency laws that affect your case. We know how to fight attempts to have your child tried as an adult as well. To avoid devastating consequences, call us for a consultation today.

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