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Philadelphia Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney


3/15/2021

When a juvenile, or someone under the age of 18, is charged with a crime, the emotional impact upon the families of the minor can be devastating. Parents may feel they are no longer able to raise their children without the Juvenile Justice System invading their privacy and parental rights. Additionally, parents and children face the very real possibility that the minor could be removed from the home and placed in a delinquency center. Having a juvenile criminal record may also impact the minor’s future when applying for colleges and jobs.

If a juvenile is arrested in Philadelphia, they have the exact same rights as an adult has at the time of arrest. The juvenile has the right to a lawyer, to remain silent, to notice of the charges, and, if the case proceeds to trial, to confront and cross-examine the witnesses in front of the judge. Police cannot speak to the juvenile without permission from their guardian. If the police call and ask you whether they have permission to speak to your child, the answer should always be NO until you consult with a criminal defense attorney.

After the juvenile is arrested in Philadelphia, they may be brought to the Juvenile Justice Services Center (JJSC) for a detention hearing. At this hearing, your attorney can make argument as to why you or your child should be released so that they can fight their charges from the street instead of the juvenile jail. After the detention hearing, the juvenile will be scheduled for an adjudicatory hearing. This hearing is where a plea of not guilty is entered and the judge listens to the evidence, witness by witness from the witness stand, to determine if the child is guilty of the crimes they have been charged with beyond a reasonable doubt or not guilty. 

When a juvenile is found guilty of a crime in juvenile court, there is no sentencing as is done in adult court. They are “adjudicated delinquent.” The judge will decide what the appropriate rehabilitation and education efforts are, as well as supervision that may include placing the minor in a state facility or delinquency detention center.

Fortunately, depending on the crime with which a juvenile is charged, there may be different solutions that can help prevent a child’s future from being negatively impacted by the decisions they make as a juvenile. A Philadelphia juvenile criminal defense attorney can help you understand what could happen if your child is arrested and charged with a crime.

The Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System

The Juvenile Justice System in Pennsylvania works to rehabilitate juvenile offenders, as opposed to taking a “tough love” approach and severely punishing their crimes. While the main goal of the system is to protect society from juvenile delinquents, it also aims to educate and rehabilitate juvenile offenders so that they may avoid committing crimes in the future and become productive members of society.

The judge presiding over a juvenile court is an administrative judge who has been appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Additionally, a juvenile probation officer will be present to conduct a screening and investigation and provide probation supervision.

Alternatives to Adjudication of Delinquency

When a juvenile is charged with a crime in juvenile court, they may be offered a consent decree. The consent decree is similar to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program offered in adult court. At a court hearing at which the consent decree is offered, the juvenile will not enter a plea, nor will an adjudication of delinquency be entered. Under a consent decree, the juvenile is permitted to stay in their home but is subject to certain conditions. These conditions may include community service, anger management, drug and alcohol counseling, or payment of restitution to the victims. If completed without violations of the conditions imposed, the juvenile will not be convicted and will be eligible for expungement. 

Another alternative, though less favorable than a consent decree, is deferred adjudication. In this situation, the judge determines that the juvenile is guilty but not in need of treatment. The juvenile court does not enter a judgment, and the juvenile is not adjudicated delinquent. The judge will defer their final decision as to adjudication until the juvenile completes any assignments from the court under supervision. If the juvenile completes all assignments and refrains from getting into more trouble, the judge can dismiss the case. If the juvenile does not complete all assignments and picks up a new case, the judge can adjudicate the child delinquent and send them to placement. 

Hiring a juvenile criminal defense attorney will increase your child’s chances of a not guilty verdict at trial, or if the evidence is compelling, a consent decree or deferred adjudication. The attorney will work to protect your child’s future by helping to prevent a guilty plea or adjudication of delinquency from going on their criminal record.

Juveniles Charged as Adults

There are a few different ways in which a child will be tried for their crimes in adult court, including a transfer known as a waiver and a direct file.

In order for the juvenile to be transferred to adult court by waiver, the alleged crime must be serious, or there must be a history of offenses. The case can be transferred via discretionary waiver or presumptive waiver.

A discretionary waiver requires that the juvenile be 14 years of age or older. Additionally, the crime for which the juvenile is being charged must be a felony. The transfer to adult court occurs where the Commonwealth shows that doing so would protect the public interest. In deciding whether to allow the transfer, the following factors will be considered:

  • Whether the juvenile shows a willingness to be supervised and rehabilitated
  • Whether the Commonwealth shows that the public interest will not be protected and that the child will not agree to rehabilitation efforts

A presumptive waiver is available where the crime committed creates a presumption that trying a minor in adult court better serves the public interest. It requires that the juvenile defendant be 14 years of age or older and alleged to have committed a crime with a deadly weapon. Additionally, those juveniles who are 15 years of age or older and alleged to have committed a serious crime such as rape or robbery may be subject to a presumptive waiver.

The District Attorney may also file charges against a juvenile in adult court through what is known as a direct file. Crimes resulting in a direct file prohibit the District Attorney from filing charges in juvenile court because of their seriousness. A direct file is required where a juvenile of any age commits murder. Additionally, the juvenile is required to be charged as an adult if they are over the age of 15 and commits a crime such as rape, aggravated assault, and robbery with a deadly weapon.

When your child’s case is filed in or transferred to adult court, you need a juvenile criminal defense attorney to file a petition for decertification. This petition shows that the juvenile would better benefit from having their case handled within the Juvenile Justice System. The judge will then consider several factors, such as the age of the child, their mental capacity, and the type of crime committed, in order to determine whether to remove the case to juvenile court. 

Call a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If your child has been charged with a crime, call the law office of Wimmer Criminal Defense. Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer will fight to protect your children’s future and keep them the home. Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law to submit an inquiry by visiting our website or calling 215-712-1212.