Delinquency Prosecutions and Status Offenses
Experimenting with different things in life and occasionally finding oneself in trouble is a part of growing up. However, when a teenager or a juvenile violates a criminal statute (be it first time drug possession, a sex offense, or a homicide), retaining an experienced defense attorney is pivotal in order to mitigate potentially severe consequences.
Cases in which juveniles are involved can essentially be divided into two categories: delinquency prosecutions, which involve offenses that would be considered crimes if they were committed by adults, and status offenses, which are only violations of the law due to the child’s age. Unlike in delinquency cases, the age of juveniles facing a status offense charge can range anywhere from birth up to the age of 18. Thus, while a juvenile can be sanctioned more leniently than an adult for breaking the same law, it can very easily happen that the sanctions are harsher than anticipated. This is particularly true because, despite the existence of juvenile courts in Louisiana (indeed, five Louisiana districts have special, separate juvenile courts), many teenagers are still tried as adults. In fact, Louisiana is one of only nine states that excludes 17-year-olds from the juvenile justice system for all offenses, including the minor, nonviolent misdemeanors. In other words, if you are 17 years old, you will not be allowed to avail yourself of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction and will, instead be sent to an adult jail upon arrest, which will be a matter of public record.
Specifically, Louisiana has three ways in which juveniles can be prosecuted as adults and those are:
Discretionary Transfer under La. Child. Code Ann. art. 857(A), used for the youth age 14 and older who meet certain offense criteria;
Prosecutorial discretion under La. Child. Code Ann. art. 305(A), used for the youth age 15 and older for certain felonies; and
Mandatory Waiver/Statutory Exclusion under La. Child. Code Ann. art. 305(B)(2)(A), obligatory for youth age 15 and older in cases of murder, rape, and kidnapping.
Lastly, the research has shown that 57% of youths held in Louisiana’s juvenile prisons were adjudicated for offenses that involved neither violence nor weapons. This alarming number translates to 57% of youths who are less likely than their similarly-situated peers to graduate from high school, more likely to remain in poverty, and more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.
At the Law Office of Gaynell Williams, we will help you not to become a part of this statistic and will work tirelessly to protect your child’s future. Our goal is to keep your child out of jail and at home with your family, where he/she belongs. Regardless of the seriousness of the crime, we can help. Don’t wait! Call us today to schedule an appointment for a free consultation to discuss your case. Call (504) 302-2462.