In our last blog entry on the differences between the Texas Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems , we touched base briefly on the fourth option available to the disposition of a juvenile case : Adjudication.
A San Antonio juvenile defense lawyer will always seek deferred prosecution for his clients but there are times the prosecutor and probation officer will not accept such a recommendation. In an adjudication, which is the equivalent of a criminal trial, it is absolutely essential that the juvenile appreciates the nature and potential consequences of an adjudication hearing. Under Section 54 of the Texas Family Code , a juvenile may not have been found to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct in need of supervision (CINS) without an adjudication hearing.
Adjudication will only be considered to have occurred after an evidentiary hearing. There are six (6) general ways the hearing will be conducted based on whether the juvenile is contesting the charges. If the client agrees, a San Antonio criminal defense lawyer will contest the charges and choose as to whether the trial should be conducted before a jury or as a bench trial before the judge. Where the juvenile decides not to contest the charges, there are four (4) possible ways to go depending on the local practice of the court: a stipulation of evidence, agreed statement of facts, judicial confession, or plea of true.
In uncontested adjudications, the juvenile may withdraw his plea if the plea was based on a plea agreement and the court entered disposition terms outside the plea agreement. See Section 54 of the Texas Juvenile Justice Code.
The court must give specific judicial admonishments (explanations of various rights and consequences) at both the beginning of every adjudication hearing and those dispositions involving a plea bargain agreement. The Texas Family Code requires the court to make specific judicial admonishments including an explanation of the allegations; the nature and consequences of the proceedings; the child’s 5th amendment right against self-incrimination; the child’s right to trial and cross-examination of witness; the child’s right to an attorney; and the child’s right to a jury trial.
The judge should especially admonish a juvenile of the admissibility of a juvenile adjudication in an adult criminal proceeding. A plea of “true” in a juvenile adjudication can be used in a subsequent criminal proceeding – the plea can be used to ultimately enhance an adult punishment.
The court shall also admonish a juvenile that it is not required to accept the plea bargain agreement between the juvenile and the prosecutor. If the court does not accept the agreement, the juvenile can withdraw the plea or stipulation of evidence.
Every juvenile has the right to a jury trial and that right is guaranteed by section 15 of the Texas Constitution . When your loved one is in trouble with the law, you absolutely need a Bexar County juvenile defense lawyer to protect your child’s rights so that mistakes are not made that can have devastating consequences in an adult criminal proceeding.