Colorado Juvenile Crime FAQs
What Is a Juvenile Court?
Juvenile courts in Colorado specialize in handling cases that involve young people ages 10 to 17. These cases include criminal cases, domestic issues like abuse, neglect, and runaways, and school-related issues like suspension or expulsion. In most Colorado districts, the juvenile court runs separately from the district courts, but other court-related services, such as probation, may be run from the same program.
How Does Juvenile Court Differ from Regular Courts?
The juvenile courts are governed by the Colorado Children's Code, Title 19 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. The juvenile courts have their own rules of procedure, which allow more flexibility to deal with specific cases while still working to protect the basic rights of those facing criminal charges. For instance, juveniles have the right to have an attorney represent them in each phase of their case.
The terms used for various events in the juvenile court process also differ from the criminal courts. For instance, instead of a "trial," a young person will have an "adjudication" to determine whether or not they committed the crime charged against them. Juveniles found to have violated a local, state, or federal law may be known as "delinquents" and instead of receiving a "verdict" or "judgment," their case receives a "disposition." Even though these terms differ, the process is basically the same as in adult court, except that extra care is taken to ensure that any disposition is tailored to the needs of the young person involved in the case.
What Types of Cases Does the Juvenile Court Handle?
The juvenile courts handle several different kinds of cases. These include criminal cases ranging from minor infractions, such as breaking curfew to serious crimes like assault and robbery. The juvenile courts may also hear cases in which abuse or neglect is involved, especially if the child has chosen to run away from home and has been returned. Finally, the juvenile courts hear appeals on situations in which a young person has been suspended or expelled from school. A young person and their family may choose to have an experienced Colorado Springs juvenile defense attorney represent them in juvenile court.
What Does It Mean to Be "Tried as an Adult"?
A juvenile who is tried as an adult has their case heard in the district courts instead of the juvenile court. The case is heard using the same rules as any case involving charges against an adult. A young person must be at least 12-years-old to be tried as an adult in Colorado, and the case must involve serious charges, such as accusations of committing a violent felony or a weapons-related felony.
A juvenile may be tried as an adult in two separate ways. In the first, the case is originally filed in the juvenile court, but is then transferred to the district court. These cases usually involve either violent crimes, juvenile felonies, and/or young people who have a substantial record of having cases filed in the juvenile courts. The second way a juvenile may be tried as an adult is if the charges against him or her are filed directly in the district court. In these cases, the young person must be at least 16-years-old and charged with committing one of a specific list of serious offenses.
What Types of Sentences Might I/My Child Face If Convicted in Juvenile Court?
Part of the purpose of a juvenile court is to provide flexibility in setting penalties, limits, and boundaries so that juveniles, whose decision-making skills are still developing, can learn to avoid criminal activities and other infractions that might result in further court appearances later in life. Consequently, the range of possible responses from the court if the young person is found to have committed a crime are much broader than they are for most adults. These possibilities include:
- Commitment to the Department of Human Services for placement in a residential or other reform program;
- Time in the county jail or a juvenile detention facility;
- Placement with a family member who will have temporary custody, if the young person's home life is not safe;
- Placement in a mental health facility or other hospital, if treatment is needed;
- Fines and/or restitution;
- Community service;
- Anger management or other therapy programs as needed.
Before a sentence is imposed, the court holds a presentence hearing to gather evidence needed to make an informed choice about a juvenile's needs. The juvenile and their family may have a lawyer present evidence on their behalf in court.
Can I Have an Attorney Represent Me/My Child in Juvenile Court?
Young people facing charges in juvenile court and their families may choose to have an attorney represent them in court. An experienced juvenile defense lawyer can build a strong case that protects a young person's legal rights and fights for the best possible outcome for them.
At The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., Attorney Timothy Bussey has years of experience in both the juvenile and adult criminal courts. He understands what goes into building a case against a young person and how to create an aggressive defense that keeps the young person's rights and needs foremost.