Columbus Juvenile Defense Attorney
The term “juvenile delinquent” almost sounds like a punchline, perhaps calling to mind images of elderly female neighbors clutching their pearls while describing teens skateboarding and playing their car radios too loudly at all hours, or of school vice principals warning the public about the evils of truancy and smoking behind the gym. In reality, a significant amount of law enforcement resources in Ohio get dedicated to the arrest, prosecution, and punishment of criminal offenders who are under the age of 18. Some 61,000 juveniles were in custody in the Buckeye State during 2011, one of the most recent years for which quality statistics are available.
Every chapter of the Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) that applies to adults also applies to children and teens, and the same goes to penalties extending to decades in prison. State laws also include numerous crimes and civil code violations that can only be committed by juveniles, including skipping school and underage operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Going into the details of each general and specific offense a youngster can be charged with—in essence, quickly summarizing the entire O.R.C.—is far beyond anyone’s ability. Suffice it to write here that children and teenagers can find themselves caught up in Ohio’s juvenile justice system in many ways.
When that happens, they and their parents or guardians need assistance from the experienced and caring criminal defense lawyers at Leist Warner. Penalties for juvenile offenders in Ohio can be severe, and the negative consequences of a conviction on even a minor legal infraction can haunt a family for many years.
Types of Juvenile Sentences
As stated in the opening sentence of O.R.C. Chapter 2512: Delinquent Children; Juvenile Traffic Offenders, the primary mission of police officers, prosecutors, judges, and corrections officials who deal with children and teenagers is to “provide for their care, protection, and mental and physical development.” In practice, however, the rules for investigating and trying alleged crimes involving minors usually involves separating children from their families for significant periods and placing onerous restrictions on youthful defendants even when they do not end up imprisoned.
Here, from least to most harsh, is a list of the “dispositions”, meaning sentences and orders, that an Ohio juvenile court or family court judge can issue:
- Confinement to home except to go to school, receive counseling, and work
- Placement with a relative, foster family, or group home when parental care is deemed insufficient or unsafe
- Juvenile detention for short periods, especially while a case is being investigated or a youngster is awaiting trial
- Probation or diversion plans, which are also called community control sanctions, can include requirements to wear a monitoring bracelet, report to law parole managers, submit to drug and alcohol tests, participate in substance abuse treatment programs, and refrain from even speaking with certain individuals.
- Boot camps and juvenile correctional facilities, or jails exclusively for convicts younger than 18
- Prison, usually only an option for older teens, but also on the table for children as young as 14 who get convicted of aggravated class 1 and class 2 felonies like first-degree murder and manslaughter.
Children can only be held in juvenile correction facilities until courts rule them to be adults. Because prison sentences can run past a teen’s 18th birthday, however, transfers from juvenile to adult prisons occur regularly.
When Do Juveniles Get Prosecuted as Adults?
O.R.C. § 2152.10 spells out a number of mandatory dispositions and sentences, which is a legalistic way of saying that certain offenses always get prosecuted in adult courts. These include most class 1 felonies allegedly committed by a person older than 16. Previous convictions on felony charges also remove juvenile status for older teens. As noted, children as young as 14 can be charged and tried as adults if special circumstance pertain. Those include a previous major felony conviction and use of a firearm while committing the second or later offense. Judges also have some discretion in moving a case from juvenile or family court to adult court.
Can Juvenile Criminal Records Be Erased?
A criminal record can follow a person for life, costing him or her job and educational opportunities, making it impossible to qualify for a business license and leaving banks unwilling to issue loans. This means that a run-in with the law during middle school or high school can make achieving success as an adult difficult. To avoid guaranteeing that young offenders wind up getting punished in perpetuity after meeting the terms of a probation or diversion plan or serving a jail term, Ohio law requires most juvenile criminal records to be sealed (i.e., not available to the public) when a person turns 23.
For felons, Ohio allows people to request expungement of their juvenile records. The process is lengthy and complex, requiring the filing of many forms and proving that the original sentence was served, new convictions have not occurred, and good community standing has been achieved. What constitutes proof of each of those things is determined by state and county courts. Requesting help from an attorney at Leist Warner can help applicants for expungement avoid bureaucratic mistakes and also improve their ability to state their case for judicial relief.
Contact a Columbus Juvenile Crime Lawyer
Children and teens are never allowed to face trial without having legal representation, but public defenders are overworked. Also, investigators are permitted to question most juveniles when no parent, guardian, or lawyer is present. Contacting a Leist Warner attorney who can focus immediately and intently on your child’s case as soon as he or she is identified as a suspect in a criminal case is essential to protecting your child’s rights and future. We at Leist Warner have many years of experience representing juvenile criminal defendants, and we always provide free case consultations. Call us today at (614) 222-1000 or fill out this web form if you need a lawyer who will fight for your family from the very start.