It is never easy to see a family member or friend arrested, and none more so than a young person whose whole life still lies ahead. The rates of juvenile crime run very high at 6.5% of all American 10-17 year olds.
Juvenile crimes are defined as violent, property, drug-related or age status offenses, felonies, infractions or misdemeanors committed by a minor.
In Mississippi a person is regarded a minor or youth when he or she is under the fixed age of majority, and thus unable to control his or her personal actions, decisions and person. In Mississippi the age of majority is eighteen years of age.
Juvenile Crime is a very specialized subject and is regulated by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, Public Law 93-415, 42 U.S.C. § 5601 (1974). When selecting an attorney it is imperative to choose one that is knowledgeable about the specifics of this act as this knowledge will determine the success of the case.
There are a number of specific conditions when dealing with juveniles. Some things to note are as follows:
- Juvenile crimes are often handled by specialist Courts which have different rules than adult courts. One of the largest differences is that occasionally no trial is required, and the mere finding of a “probable cause” (defined as “a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime) is sufficient for a declaration of delinquency. The definition of reasonable is often a point of contention, and one which a good attorney will argue effectively.
- A knowledgeable attorney may want to argue over which court the accused should be tried in. Depending on the alleged offense, some courts may be better than others.
- Youths who are arrested must be kept separate from adults. This means that the accused must not even be walked past adults being interrogated. Equally, “status offenders” – those who have committed acts which are considered illegal based solely on the basis of age (examples are illegal consumption of alcohol and tobacco and truancy) – cannot be detained by police or arrested. Non-adherence by the police or prison authorities may be used by a knowledgeable attorney to protect his client’s rights.
- There are many procedures which govern the handling of a juvenile. These include the obligation upon the court to immediately notify the youngster’s parents or guardians, the right to make two phone calls, and the involvement of a probation officer within 24 hours of detention. A good lawyer will be cognizant of these procedures and will ensure that the defendant’s rights are protected.
- Mississippi courts make a rebuttable presumption that persons between ages 7 to 13 years should be tried in juvenile court. Persons below the age of seven years are considered too young to understand the difference between right and wrong and are thus regarded legally ignorant, while persons above age 13 years are considered old enough to be tried in either juvenile or adult courts.
Clarence T Guthrie has successful experience defending juveniles through the Mississippi legal system. This is a specialized area and one with which his firm is well acquainted. If your loved one has been involved in a crime please call The Guthrie Firm, PLLC at (601) 991-1099 or contact us online. We are here to help.