In our last blog entry, we discussed several aspects of San Antonio and greater Bexar County juvenile adjudication , the equivalent of an adult criminal trial. In a juvenile delinquency proceeding, a juvenile may only be convicted upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
A San Antonio juvenile defense lawyer will pay particular attention to the petition, which must state the specific time, place, and manner of the alleged criminal acts and the specific penal laws the juvenile is alleged to have violated. If a trial does not prove the specific acts of a petition, then an acquittal is in order.
Moreover, the simple testimony of an accomplice is not enough to convict a juvenile. There must be other evidence presented to connect the juvenile to the crime beyond the testimony of an accomplice. Nor will a juvenile’s out of court statement be sufficient to prove an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The same Texas Rules of Evidence that are applicable to San Antonio adult criminal defense are also applicable to the juvenile adjudication proceeding.
In the past few years, there has been an increasing problem with a “shadow” juvenile justice system in which municipal and justice courts have been prosecuting juvenile offenders in the adult criminal system. These courts are not bound by the dictates of the Texas Juvenile Justice Code. Most of the time, the municipal and justice courts deal with juveniles who have violated their school conduct policies. Special education juveniles are especially vulnerable in these types of non-juvenile court proceedings.
Even more disturbing is the fact that juveniles convicted in municipal and justice courts have criminal records. When the juvenile reaches adulthood, he cannot count on such records being automatically expunged or sealed. Unlike juvenile adjudications, juvenile convictions are public record unless there are affirmative steps taken to seal / expunge them. For juveniles convicted of Class C misdemeanors, juveniles may face jail if they do not pay their fines upon turning 17 under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
In addition, there are serious ramifications to criminal convictions in municipal and justice courts. Today, convictions can prevent a juvenile from obtaining student loans or carrying a concealed handgun. In addition, convictions on Class C misdemeanors can be used to enhance subsequent arrests to felonies in alcohol offenses and family violence assaults.
Municipal and justice courts oversee four (4) types of offenses by juveniles: traffic offenses; fine only offenses; specific alcohol offenses; and truancy cases. These cases all demand the presence of a parent. When a juvenile has two (2) convictions in a municipal or justice court, the ensuing case must be transferred to juvenile court. The municipal / justice courts do have the discretion to transfer fineable only cases to juvenile court with the exception of traffic / tobacco cases.
A San Antonio juvenile criminal defense attorney will take great pains in working with special education juveniles to prepare documents reflecting disabilities from their school records. Such records are critical to raising competency to stand trial as well as responsibility for the alleged incident.
Criminal defense for San Antonio adults and juveniles requires an examination of specific mental states. The first major mental state is “Intentional” ie. Did the person have a conscious desire to engage in the conduct ? The second type of mental state is “Knowing” ie. Was the person aware that his conduct would reasonably cause the negative results ? The third type of mental state is “Reckless” ie. Did the person consciously disregard the risks they created by their conduct ? The final mental state is “Criminal Negligence” ie. Should the person have determined the risks involved with their conduct.
Different types of offenses require varying degrees of mental states to hold a person culpable criminally. A Bexar County / San Antonio criminal defense lawyer can be instrumental in educating you and your child on your options in juvenile court or the municipal / justice courts.