When a youth breaks the law, it’s dealt with in a way that’s distinct from criminal charges brought against adults. Each state has its own set of rules that govern its juvenile justice system and even different definitions of who falls into the category of “juvenile.” In Texas, juveniles are people ages 10 through 16, meaning the cutoff age for juveniles is 17.
Different crimes, different times
Criminal offenses in juvenile law are called either delinquent conduct or CINS, which stands for conduct indicating a need for supervision. A juvenile who commits either of these may be sent to juvenile court.
Going to court isn’t always necessary, however. If the offense is seen as minor, a juvenile may be informally disciplined by way of a lecture from an authority figure. Other times, the punishment is left up to the youth’s parents.
For the cases in which a county decides that an offense is serious enough to warrant being charged with delinquent conduct, juveniles have the same rights that adults have when criminal charges are brought against them. Sometimes, an offense is so severe that the county requests to certify the juvenile as an adult for criminal purposes. When such a request is granted, the rules of the juvenile justice system no longer apply to the offender. Juvenile court in Texas may result in probation or a sentence at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
When probation occurs, juvenile law requires that it ends once the offender turns 18. If the juvenile is sent to court with an indeterminate sentence, their discharge happens by the age of 19. Determinate sentences, on the other hand, may lead to a transfer to adult prison.
Like other states, Texas’s juvenile justice system is designed with the legal needs of youths in mind. It’s not something anyone wants to go through, but if you ever have to, it’s much easier when you understand the process.