Being a parent is never easy. Even when you do whatever you can for your child, there are times when they are bound to make mistakes. Major mistakes can result in serious consequences, however. If your juvenile child has been accused of a crime in Maine, you can expect them to face their charge in a District Court. Just like with adults, however, your child has the right to legal representation. By arranging for a skilled attorney to defend their rights, you improve their chances of avoiding an outcome that could haunt them into adulthood.
Attorney William H. Ashe is an experienced juvenile defense attorney with extensive experience handling a variety of cases. Over the last decade, he has accumulated significant trial experience, winning dismissals and acquittals in Ellsworth and throughout the state. To discuss your child's legal future, contact the Law Offices of William H. Ashe right away.
Juvenile Cases in Maine
In Maine, juvenile cases typically begin with a police complaint. This often occurs when a juvenile is arrested under suspicion of a crime. Each complaint is taken up by specialized law enforcement officers known as Juvenile Community Corrections Officers (JCCO). The JCCO assigned to your child's case will review the complaint and the facts surrounding the arrest. If they agree that charges are warranted, they will ask the District Attorney to bring formal charges. In some cases, a JCCO will work with your child to adjust their behavior, giving them an opportunity to avoid criminal charges.
If the District Attorney moves forwards with charges, the case will be taken up in juvenile court. These cases are kept separate from adults facing criminal charges, and the rules in these courts are unique. The purpose of juvenile courts is to rehabilitate instead of punish, which gives the judge discretion in disposing of a case. When possible, courts will attempt to use alternative sentencing instead of incarceration.
Additionally, children facing juvenile charges have a much stronger right to privacy compared to the adult judicial system. These hearings are closed, and any outcome in your child's case is confidential. During a hearing, admission to the courtroom is barred except for the necessary parties like the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney. As a parent, you will also be allowed to enter. The law does not allow the press to cover these proceedings, and even the terminology in each case is different compared to the adult system. For example, juveniles “admit” their charges instead of pleading guilty. If the case goes to trial, they are “adjudicated” by a judge instead of being found guilty. Despite these additional protections and the court's desire for rehabilitation, there remains the possibility that your child could experience steep consequences if they are adjudicated the judge.
The Bond System in Juvenile Court
For adults, the only way out of jail following an arrest is to either be released on your own recognizance or pay a bond. If you are unable to bond out, you could await trial in jail. Juvenile courts do not use this process. In a juvenile case, a child will be turned over to their parents pending a hearing. However, when the court determines it is in the child's best interest, they could be help at a juvenile detention center pending adjudication. An experienced Maine juvenile defense lawyer could help convince the court to allow your child to return home immediately.
Any criminal charge that adults face could also result in a juvenile case. However, certain offenses like underage drinking are reserved for juvenile offenders. For serious charges like murder, a juvenile could wind up the adult justice system. For the bulk of these charges, however, they are most likely to remain under the control of a juvenile judge. Some common offenses in juvenile court include:
- Underage drinking
- Minor in possession of alcohol
Penalties for Juveniles
The penalties facing juvenile offenders in Maine depend on the crime with which they are charged and the factors relating to the case. Prior juvenile cases could also play a factor in these penalties. Because the ultimate goal is for rehabilitation, no two cases are ever treated exactly alike. The court will carefully consider each factor before handing down any penalties, which could include:
- A term of probation
- Mandatory community service
- Required school attendance
- Alcohol counseling
- Juvenile detention
Typically, juvenile detention is only an option for serious charges or repeat offenders. Your child's attorney could work diligently to help them avoid spending time in juvenile detention.
Clearing a Juvenile Record in Maine
For adults, a criminal conviction is a matter of public record. These convictions show up in various types of background checks and greatly impact a person's life. Things work differently for juveniles, however. While most adjudications remain private, felony cases are an exception. The good news is that there is a procedure that allows the public record of a juvenile sealed. This remedy is up to the court's discretion, but there are three requirements a candidate must meet. They require:
- At least three years to have passed since the adjudication;
- No additional criminal convictions or adjudications during that three-year span; and
- No pending criminal actions against the person.
The judge must weigh these decisions on a case-by-case basis. In making their decision, the court must determine if the juvenile's interest in making their records private outweighs the public interest. If the court decides to seal the records, that does not erase them entirely. While they will no longer available to the public, law enforcement will still have access to the sealed records. The juvenile will be able to answer truthfully that they have no criminal convictions on their record moving forward.
How a Maine Juvenile Defense Attorney Could Help
From defending your child to working to remove their juvenile record from the public eye, an experienced defense attorney can make a tremendous difference in your child's case. To discuss the juvenile process and what your family could expect from it, contact the Law Offices of William H. Ashe right away.