If your child gets arrested for committing a crime, it can be nerve-racking if you don’t know what to do or the legal steps to take to protect your child. It’s essential to understand juvenile offenders’ rights in the justice system so that you know how to adequately support them through the trial.

One of their rights is to have legal representation as adults. In that case, you may want to consult a Seattle criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after the arrest. They can provide legal counsel on the risks your child faces as well as their options.

What Does the Law Say About Juvenile Offenders’ Rights to a Lawyer?

Since January 2022, juvenile offenders 18 years and under got the same access to legal counsel as adults in Washington State. The new law took effect on July 25, 2021, aiming to reduce the number of youth in foster care who end up in juvenile detention.

Overall, the law focuses on expanding the number of community-based endeavors that provide culturally competent trauma-informed rehabilitative care. In so doing, the programs will promote racial equity among youth in the justice system.

By expanding juveniles’ rights to legal representation, the law makes it possible for youth offenders to phone, video conference, or talk in person to a Seattle juvenile defense lawyer before they waive any constitutional rights if a law enforcement officer:

  • Questions them after advising the offender of their rights
  • Requests to search a youth’s body, property, residence, or car
  • Briefly detains a minor on the probable suspicion of being involved in a crime

How Are Juvenile Offenders Processed?

Every charge against a juvenile offender starts with an arrest by the police. The arrest can happen either because the law enforcement officer has probable cause to do so or based on a court order. Upon the arrest, the law enforcement officer informs the accused of their rights before handing over the case to the prosecutor.

The prosecutor decides how to handle the offender upon determining if the charges should be filed, although they’re not required to file any charges. It helps to have an experienced juvenile defense attorney in Seattle in the criminal court proceeding. They can fight to have the charges dismissed since they know how the criminal system works.

Charges a Juvenile Offender Might Face

In the legal system, there’s no difference between crimes committed by children and those committed by adults. In the State of Washington, juvenile offenders aged 12 and above can be charged with any of the following offenses:

  • Theft
  • Burglary
  • Shoplifting
  • Child pornography
  • Assault
  • Juvenile sex crimes
  • Drug possession or sale
  • Domestic violence

A skilled juvenile defense attorney can provide support through an overwhelming and stressful experience while fighting for the most favorable outcome.

Why Do Juvenile Offenders Need Legal Representation in a Criminal Case?

If a juvenile faces criminal charges, the prosecuting attorney must prove that the offender sufficiently understands that they committed a crime. Whatever the child’s age, a skilled juvenile defense attorney in Seattle can devise the best possible strategy to achieve the most favorable outcome as the child’s legal representative.

The accused child’s future is at stake, and therefore, a juvenile defense lawyer can fight aggressively to minimize the consequences by:

  • Providing legal representation at the pre-charging phase of the case
  • Getting the charges reduced or dropped altogether
  • Fighting to keep the child out of custody while the matter is ongoing
  • Preventing the child from being subjected to juvenile detention
  • Getting the child into a diversion or treatment program
  • Addressing any pre-existing conditions like substance abuse or mental health with the help of the relevant service providers
  • Keeping an arrest or a conviction off the child’s permanent criminal record

What Other Rights Does a Juvenile Offender Have in Seattle?

Once a juvenile has access to a juvenile defense lawyer in Seattle, they may have their lawyer, parent, or guardian speak on their behalf regarding their constitutional rights.

Right to a Probable Cause to be Searched

The law stipulates that law enforcement officers must have probable cause to search a minor suspected of a criminal offense. However, public officials, such as school personnel, may only require reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing to detain and search minors temporarily.

Right to a Phone Call

A minor has the right to make at least one phone call when arrested and if they’re not likely to be released quickly. The minor may contact the parent or guardian, who may then get in touch with a juvenile defense attorney in Seattle.

In so doing, minors exercise their Miranda rights. Anything they say to the police officer may be objectionable in juvenile court if the officer ignores the minor’s request to make a phone call.

Right to Notice of Charges

Law enforcers must notify juvenile offenders of the delinquency charges they face.

Right to Confront or Cross-Examine Witnesses

A juvenile adjudication hearing isn’t a formal criminal trial. However, accused minors have the right to confront and cross-examine those testifying against them. That means they can question the witnesses through a Seattle juvenile defense attorney and challenge their testimony.

Right to Have Charges Proved Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The United States Supreme Court rules that the state must prove the charges against a juvenile beyond a reasonable doubt if a juvenile faces adjudication or incarceration. If the penalties are not an issue, the prosecutor only needs to prove the charges using a “preponderance of evidence” standard.

Protect The Future of Your Underage Child with Skilled Representation

Seeing your child arrested and charged with juvenile offenses can be scary and overwhelming, and you may not know what to do. Your best chance at protecting your child is to hire an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney to defend their rights. They can fight aggressively to have the charges reduced or dropped.

At our law firm, we work tirelessly to represent juvenile offenders to help them achieve the most favorable outcome. We know that a conviction in the juvenile courts may have a lasting impact that may ruin your child’s future forever, and we don’t want that to happen. Contact us to schedule a FREE case assessment, and let us build an aggressive defense to protect your child.