Teenagers and older children frequently push back against authority figures at school, at home, and in public. And while their behavior rarely escalates beyond pranks, juveniles will at times find themselves under arrest. Separate from the adult system, the juvenile justice system can be convoluted and can vary greatly depending on how the juvenile is categorized by the state prosecutor.
If you have questions regarding juvenile justice in Oklahoma, you should contact the experienced juvenile defense attorneys at the Worden Law Firm. The attorneys with the Worden Law Firm can explain the juvenile justice process and answer questions relevant to the case. But in the meantime, the juvenile defense attorneys with the Worden Law Firm have addressed some of the most frequently asked questions below.
Juvenile Offender Frequently Asked Questions in Oklahoma
How do juvenile charges differ from adult charges?
Anyone that has watched a crime drama on TV is likely familiar with the general criminal process for adults. An offender is arrested, then he or she is either held until their trial or given the chance to bond out of jail and then go to trial. If the offender is found guilty, he or she could potentially go to prison to serve out the jail sentence.
Juvenile charges are different. Typically, juvenile offenders face lesser penalties than adults for similar crimes. This is because the stated purpose of the juvenile justice process is rehabilitation, not punishment. But that doesn't mean juvenile charges aren't serious.
The differences between juvenile and adult cases become apparent shortly after the arrest. While adults will typically have the chance to pay a bond and get out of jail until trial, there is no bond system for juveniles. In most cases, a juvenile offender will be released to a parent or guardian pending trial. In more serious cases, the juvenile will be held in a juvenile facility until the trial is over.
The deciding factor in whether a juvenile is released or not is what is in the best interest of the child. For example, a juvenile charged with a minor offense that would otherwise be released to a parent or guardian will be held in a juvenile center pending trial if the court determines it is unsafe for the juvenile to return home.
Are there different classifications for juvenile offenders in Oklahoma?
Juvenile offenders are separated into three different categories, and the differences between the three are great. The three different categories of a juvenile offender are juvenile delinquent, youthful offender, and juveniles charged as adults.
Juvenile delinquent is the lowest classification level for a juvenile offender. Technically, juvenile delinquency is not even a criminal charge and will not result in a conviction on a juvenile's permanent record. Juvenile Delinquency is typically reserved for defendants under the age of 15, but older juveniles may also be counted as delinquent for very minor offenses. When a juvenile delinquent turns 18, the state will seal their record, which gives them a fresh start as an adult. A juvenile delinquency case is still serious, however, as it can result in a juvenile's incarceration until their 18th birthday.
Youthful offenders are treated more harshly than juvenile delinquents. In fact, the Oklahoma legislature created this distinction for cases where criminal prosecution was warranted but where the case was not serious enough to charge the juvenile as an adult. Youthful offenders are typically between 15 and 17 years old, and a conviction will result in a set period of incarceration much like adults receive. Unlike juvenile delinquents, youthful offenders are not necessarily released on their 18th birthday.
In the most serious cases, some juveniles are charged as adults. This charge is reserved for only the serious of charges, including murder in the first degree. While defendants as young as 13 may be charged as adults, this designation is primarily used for defendants 15 years old and up. If convicted, the juvenile will have the same sentence imposed as if they were an adult.
My child was previously found to be a youthful offender. Can he or she be charged as an adult now?
No. Once a juvenile is identified as either a youthful offender or an adult the classification will stick until their 18th birthday. This is the case regardless of how serious the later charges are. Once a juvenile is classified as a youthful offender, they cannot be charged later as an adult.
Are juveniles put into jail with adults in Oklahoma?
It is rare, but it does happen. Juveniles are typically held at juvenile detention centers before trial, and those found guilty will often be held at juvenile facilities until they turn 18. For juvenile delinquents, turning 18 results in a juvenile's release from detention. But in more serious cases, a youthful offender who has yet to serve their full sentence may be transferred to adult prison at 18.
In some cases, youthful offenders will be allowed to stay at a juvenile facility until they turn 20. However, if a youthful offender fails to comply with rehabilitation they may be transferred to adult prison before their 18th birthday. Juveniles convicted of a crime as an adult may also be taken to adult prison immediately.
Are juvenile offenders entitled to an attorney?
Yes. Juveniles have due process rights under the constitution, and they are allowed to have an attorney during the course of their proceedings. Hiring the right Oklahoma juvenile defense attorney can go a long way in obtaining the result you and your loved one were hoping for.
The Worden Law Firm
Juveniles typically commit fewer crimes than adults, and the courts are often more lenient towards younger offenders. But that doesn't mean a juvenile charge isn't serious. A conviction can cost a juvenile their freedom until their 18th birthday, and for longer in the most serious of cases. The best chance for a positive outcome is to hire an experienced juvenile defense lawyer immediately. The attorneys at the Worden Law Firm have extensive experience representing juvenile clients in Oklahoma, and they are ready to put their experience to work for you. Contact the Worden Law Firm today for a free consultation.