Juvenile Court Cases
Every year, millions of young people are called into a local juvenile court. In Washington, the public can look at the physical and electronic records of a juvenile’s encounter with the judicial system, even if the charges against the young person were dismissed or weren’t adjudicated. If you or your child has a juvenile court case on file, the experienced Seattle juvenile law attorneys of Blair & Kim can answer your questions and guide you through this stressful process.Juvenile Court Cases
In Washington, a juvenile court handles cases where a juvenile has been accused of committing an offense. Offenses are any sort of conduct that would have been called a crime had it been committed by an adult. They can be misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors or felonies. Sometimes the prosecutor refers a juvenile to diversion for a low level offense. In other cases, however, an information is filed that requires the juvenile to go to court. The juvenile court also handles civil infractions and traffic infractions such as failing to stop at a red light where the accused is under the age of 16.
Under Washington law, children under age 8 are considered incapable of committing a crime. Those who are 8-12 are presumed incapable of committing a crime, but the presumption can be removed by proving they have enough capacity to understand a criminal act or neglect and to know it was wrong.
In Washington, you have a right to counsel at any critical stage in juvenile court proceedings. In other words, you have a right to counsel in any proceeding where you might be subject to transfer for criminal prosecution or at any stage in the proceeding where you would be in danger of confinement. The court would have to let the minor and their parent, custodian or guardian know about this right. The right to an attorney includes the right to appointment of any necessary experts.
What must be proven and what the penalty will be in a juvenile court case depends on the particular offense. For example, juvenile sex offenders are generally subject to Washington’s state sex offender laws. They can be subject to civil commitment if the court decides they are sexually violent predators. They will face a registration requirement if released to the community. They are prohibited from enrolling in the same school that the victim or the victim’s siblings attend. They are assigned a risk level classification for purposes of community notification by law enforcement, and the assignment is made by representatives from several different agencies. Level 1 sex offenders are those that are considered to pose the least risk to the community. Level 3 sex offenders are those that are believed to present a high risk of re-offense within the community.Reform
Legislation has been signed in Washington to reform the juvenile justice system. The goal is to reduce the number of 16- and 17-year-olds entering the adult system for certain violent offenses. Under Senate Bill 6160, those offenses (except for first-degree child rape) were removed from a list of crimes that would automatically result in a 16- or 17-year-old entering the adult system.
Previously, Washington followed a system of auto decline in which the juvenile system would automatically decline jurisdiction over a minor, and his or her case would be filed in the adult system. For instance, 16- or 17-year-olds could automatically be sent to adult court and face long prison terms for such crimes as first-degree robbery or drive-by shootings.
Under the new law, a 16- or 17-year-old will not automatically go to adult court for certain crimes, including robbing a store at gunpoint. Additionally, the law allows the juvenile court to have jurisdiction over cases until the defendant is 25, up from age 21, for those convicted of particular crimes. The thinking is that adolescent brains are not fully developed until age 25, so young people are less culpable than adults are for crimes. It also increases the sentence for crimes considered A++ offenses such that time would be served in juvenile rehabilitation facilities, not state prison.Juvenile Court Records
Washington is one of a minority of states that allow for open public access to juvenile records, and that sells the data included in juvenile court files. However, most juveniles are eligible to seal their records. This can provide some relief from the collateral consequences of a criminal record. You may rightly be concerned about the impact of a juvenile offense on yourself or your child. It is important to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney about developing the strongest possible defense for your case.Experienced Juvenile Law Attorneys Serving Seattle
If you or your child are facing a juvenile court case in Seattle, a skillful criminal defense attorney who understands the potential consequences of the charges, and what the best strategy for fighting them would be, can help you get through this difficult time. At Blair and Kim, our criminal defense attorney and family law attorney work together to tailor individual strategies each for client. We represent those accused in areas including Kings County, Redmond, Kirkland, and Bellevue. Call us at (206) 622-6562 or contact us via our online form to learn more.