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The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield

Tacoma Juvenile & Student Crimes Attorney

(253) 203-3379

If your child has been charged with a juvenile offense in Washington you are right to be worried. Your child has their whole life in front of them and you obviously want to protect their future.

Without swift and effective legal representation, a criminal case involving a minor can become more complicated than necessary or result in serious consequences like the creation of a criminal record and the possibility of juvenile detention. Both of which can be difficult to recover from. If your minor son or daughter has been accused or charged with any criminal offense in the Tacoma area, contact juvenile and student crimes attorney Morgan Fletcher Benfield to find answers to your questions and the best possible outcome for your child. Call (253) 203-3379 to schedule a free, no-risk consultation.

Juvenile Law & Penalties in Washington State

The Washington Juvenile Court System (RCW Title 13) is designed to handle matters associated with youthful offenders (persons under the age of 18). In contrast to the criminal penalties for adults, juvenile cases have a different focus: rehabilitation and treatment. As a result, Washington’s juvenile justice system has several procedures, programs, and options for juveniles depending on the offense, the offender’s prior history, as well as their circumstances. This can include fines, substance abuse treatment, home detention, incarceration, probation, and community service. Additionally, because Washington’s system aims to rehabilitate, other state agencies and organizations can also participate. This can include schools, the Department of Social and Health Services, and other community programs.

Law enforcement and prosecutors have a lot of discretion over juvenile charges and how they are handled. For example, after being arrested, the police can release a minor to his or her legal guardian or take them to juvenile hall. Essentially, this will depend on the crime and the circumstances surrounding the offense.

Some of the Most Common Juvenile Offenses Include:

  • Juvenile Drug Crimes

    Possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia are some the most common juvenile drug crimes and a conviction can have a significant impact on a young person’s record.

  • Underage DUI

    The BAC for someone under 21 is .02 or over. Even for juveniles, a DUI is a serious offense that can result in harsh penalties and limitation on your ability to drive.

  • Vandalism/Malicious Mischief

    These property offenses typically result when a minor is believed to have caused physical damage to property and can result in a lot of harm to a young person’s permanent record.

  • Theft

    Shoplifting is a common offense in the juvenile system and as a third-degree theft it can be punished as a gross misdemeanor.

  • Assault

    It’s not uncommon for simple fights to escalate into assault charges, which can permanently label a minor as violent if convicted.

When is a Juvenile Charged as an Adult?

A minor (as young as 14) can also be reassigned from the Washington Juvenile Court System and treated like an adult in certain serious situations. For example, if a violent or a sex crime occurred. If this is a possibility, the minor in question will have the right to a declination hearing, where a judge will determine if moving the case to the adult system is appropriate. During this hearing, a skilled criminal defense attorney will present reasons why it should remain under the juvenile system. The consequences for these offenses are much harsher in the normal criminal justice system, which makes a declination hearing a very important step in the process.

What Rights Does a Juvenile Have?

Simply put, a juvenile suspect has the same constitutional rights as any adult. A juvenile is entitled to have their Miranda rights read to them and can have an attorney present before making a statement or answering any questions. Furthermore, while a juvenile may request to have their parent or guardian present before being questioned, the police don’t have to inform the juvenile of this fact before the questioning starts.

How a Tacoma Juvenile Attorney Can Help Defend Your Child

For any juvenile charges in Washington, you should always consult and have a criminal defense lawyer present for any proceedings. A skilled juvenile and student crimes attorney can present the facts of your child’s case in a positive light, negotiate for a reduction in charges or a dismissal if possible, facilitate their inclusion in any available diversion or probation programs, and if necessary fight for them in court. While a minor does not have the right to a jury trial, they are entitled to an “adjudication” before a judge with the same “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof. An attorney will be essential to handle this process as quickly and efficiently as possible to minimize or eliminate any negative consequences.

As a parent, you are probably fully aware of how important having a clear criminal record is for things like getting into colleges, finding a good job, or obtaining any type of financial assistance or loans. If an arrest or conviction does appear on your child’s record, in certain circumstances a lawyer can also help with sealing, vacating, or expunging a conviction, which essentially removes the incident as if it never occurred or ensures it is permanently concealed from general view.

Contact Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC Right Away

We realize that juvenile charges in Washington often result from misunderstandings, overreactions, or in some cases suggest a real need for help. In every juvenile case, we will help you evaluate your child’s unique situation, work to minimize any negative ramifications, and obtain a resolution that puts your son or daughter in the best position for success.

Schedule a free and confidential consultation with attorney Morgan Fletcher Benfield today by calling (253) 203-3379 or complete our online form.