As a comprehensive defense practice, Intermountain Legal assists parents whose children have been accused of criminal or delinquent conduct in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah.
Understanding Juvenile Offenses
In Utah, the Juvenile Court has exclusive original jurisdiction over youths less than 18 years of age who violate any federal, state, or municipal law. In addition, the Court has exclusive jurisdiction in traffic offenses involving minors related to automobile homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, reckless driving, joy riding, and fleeing a police officer.
Utah Juvenile Justice Services (JJS) treats juvenile offenders as people who need rehabilitation instead of criminal punishment. Therefore, juveniles are not "convicted" of a crime, but are found to have engaged in delinquent conduct. However, while juvenile law was initially aimed toward rehabilitating young offenders, it has changed into a system in which juvenile records and adjudications can follow your children into adulthood. Attending college, joining the military, and obtaining gainful employment are all more difficult with a juvenile record.
The Juvenile Justice Process
When a child has been arrested, he or she is not released on bail or bond. Rather, juvenile offenders may be placed in locked detention or taken to a receiving center. Delinquent youth can only be held in locked detention if a Juvenile Court judge orders detention, or if they are arrested for a "holdable offense" per the Statewide Detention Admission Guidelines. These include offenses such as:
- Auto theft
- Home burglary
- Sale and use of drugs
- Armed robbery
- Aggravated burglary
On the other hand, receiving centers provide a location for local law enforcement to take minors after arrest for status offenses or delinquent acts that do not meet the Detention Admission Guidelines. If the minor is taken to a receiving center, he or she may be released home, referred to Youth Services for counseling or a time out, or referred to other services for additional help. The Court may require a meeting with an intake probation officer who decides if the minor must see a judge, a commissioner, or whether the meeting sufficiently addresses the offense.
Within 48 hours of being arrested for a holdable offense, the minor will receive a Detention Hearing. The Detention Hearing decides whether the minor will remain in locked detention, be placed in home detention, or return home or to a less restrictive placement until the Juvenile Court Hearing, which decides guilt or innocence, and the punishment for the offense. If found guilty, the judge may order the minor to JJS custody or order other sanctions, such as fines, payment of restitution to victims, probation, additional detention, or work camp.
Under Utah law, serious juvenile offenders may be transferred to adult court. Certification and conviction as an adult takes the child out of the juvenile justice system and allows him or her to receive an adult prison sentence. We work tirelessly to keep children out of the adult system, so that they may move forward without the stigma of a criminal record.
Seek Experienced, Knowledgeable Representation
Juvenile offenses should not be taken lightly, as they can have a lasting impact on a child's life. If your child has been charged with a crime or delinquent conduct, it is critical that you seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible to ensure your child's rights are protected. We understand how to handle these delicate cases, guiding parents so that they can make informed choices about their child's defense. Put your child's future in capable hands; contact Intermountain Legal today for a free initial consultation.