Authorities are more aggressive than ever when it comes to arresting juvenile offenders
Over the last decade, the juvenile crime rate in Texas has been on a roller coaster. In 2010, the juvenile crime rate was at one of its highest points in history. Then, the crime rate fell, and by 2018, it had fallen almost in half. Suddenly, the juvenile crime rate skyrocketed again, to an even higher level than it was in 2010.
Most likely, the crime rate did not change. Only the arrest rate changed. Unlike the adult criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system is designed to punish and rehabilitate kids. Therefore, law enforcement officers swing back and forth from a “scared straight” model that stresses punishment to a “catch and release” model that stresses rehabilitation.
The pendulum swings back and forth unpredictably. But the crimes that authorities charge are usually unchanged. A Ft. Worth criminal defense lawyer’s approach usually doesn’t change either. Most criminal cases, including most juvenile cases, settle out of court. Avoiding a permanent criminal record is usually the most important priority during plea negotiations. Usually, prosecutors are willing to work with defense attorneys in this area.
Ordinary assault and aggravated assault are the most common violent juvenile crimes. Frequently, these juvenile offenses are gang related. That is especially true of aggravated assaults and other violent felonies. Texas has a very broad street gang law. According to Penal Code 71.02, street gangs are like the mafia, at least for most cases. If one gang member commits a felony, everyone can be charged with that same felony. Certain misdemeanors, such as gambling, could also be charged in this way.
Jail release, which is often difficult to arrange in violent crime cases, is critical in these situations. Many city jails do not have separate facilities for adults and juveniles. Furthermore, jail is so frightening for many children that they will accept any plea bargain which ends their incarceration.
Lack of evidence is often an effective defense in assault cases. Usually, the state’s case cannot go forward unless the alleged victim’s testimony is both available and compelling. Affirmative defenses, like self-defense, could apply as well. Since it is so important to keep these convictions off a criminal record, a Ft. Worth criminal defense lawyer might also arrange a plea to ABC (Assault by Contact), which is the equivalent of a traffic ticket.
Drug crimes and vandalism-type property crimes are the most common juvenile offenses in this category.
Drug cases are often charged under the aforementioned street gang law. Gangs often use younger members as lookouts during drug transactions. These gangs often also use younger members as mules. Drug crimes are extremely serious in Texas. However, these offenses also have a lot of moving parts. S, they are often difficult to prove in court.
As for vandalism and other such infractions, if the damage was less than $50, peace officers often do not respond. In more serious cases, prosecutors usually dismiss the charges if the child pays for the damage and jumps through some other hoops, such as performing community service.