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Can My Child Really Go to Jail in Texas?

If you’re a parent, you probably worry a lot for your child in all sorts of ways. You worry about how well they’re doing in school and you worry about them coming home safely when they say they’re going out with friends. How often, though, do you worry about them getting into trouble with the law?

Children – and especially teenagers – test their boundaries. For most, that’s part of growing up. That said, testing boundaries can get out of control if it involves breaking the law, even in seemingly insignificant ways. If your child is between the ages of 10 and 17, they are considered a juvenile but can still face charges for anything between a Class C Misdemeanor to a serious felony.

How Texas Punishes Juvenile Offenders

If a court finds that a juvenile committed a criminal offense, the juvenile can be sentenced to probation until they turn 18 or sent to a youth correctional facility until they turn 19. Realistically, your child is unlikely to face these kinds of consequences unless the court finds that they committed a Class B Misdemeanor or a more serious offense.

Although not technically “jail” or “prison,” these youth facilities, which often include education and rehabilitation programs, still remove juveniles from their homes for the duration of their sentences. Due to the lack of sentencing guidelines for juvenile offenders, judges can sentence a juvenile to detention until they turn 19, regardless of their age at the time of sentencing.

How Juvenile Offenders Can Be Punished as Adults

There are two circumstances in which a juvenile can face the consequences an adult might face for committing the same crime: determinate sentencing and certification as an adult.

Determinate sentencing typically applies in cases where a juvenile has committed a serious felony, such as sexual assault, aggravated robbery, manslaughter, murder, and even capital murder. Determinate sentencing provides a hybrid system by which a juvenile is given a sentence that begins when they are under the jurisdiction of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) and until they age out at 18 years old. At that time, they may be transferred to an adult prison for up to 40 years.

You’ve probably heard of juveniles standing trial as adults before. In Texas, this is only possible when a juvenile is certified as an adult. Certification is sought by the prosecution and granted by the juvenile court, but a juvenile must be at least 15 years old and the alleged crime should be a serious felony. As a result, it’s very rare for this to occur, but if it does, a juvenile can face any penalties an adult might face if they are convicted of the same crime. If the juvenile court denies certification, however, the prosecution can still proceed in juvenile court, and the consequences of a conviction would apply accordingly.

We Can Help You Defend Your Child

At Alband, Lane & Balderrama, we can provide the legal support you and your child need if your child is facing juvenile criminal accusations. We understand this can be an incredibly stressful and traumatic time, but rest assured that our compassionate attorneys can rigorously defend your child and work toward achieving a better outcome.

For more information about our legal assistance, contact us online.