Fairfax Juvenile Crimes Lawyer
What is Considered a Juvenile Offense in Virginia?
The juvenile system categorizes criminal offenses by any individual under the age of 18 as either misdemeanors or felonies, just like in cases with adult defendants. The specific criminal penalties a child may be facing depend on the criminal charges, any past criminal history, and other factors. In addition, to the criminal sentence, certain convictions will result in a permanent criminal record which could affect future educational and career goals.
Misdemeanors are less serious offenses than felonies, so the criminal penalties are less severe. In addition, those convicted of misdemeanor juvenile offenses have a greater degree of privacy, and the court records are not open to the public. While there is still a police record, dissemination of juvenile misdemeanor records is very limited.
A juvenile felony conviction:
- Carries more severe criminal penalties
- Records are open to the public
- Records are retained
- Show up on a criminal background check for life
- Is visible to future employers, colleges, and government agencies
Many people have the mistaken belief that juvenile convictions are confidential, and that the privacy of juveniles is protected. However, this is not always the case, and a young person’s mistakes can have serious and lasting consequences. A juvenile conviction can follow the child into his or her adult life. This makes defending their rights and interests even more important.
Has your child been charged with a crime in Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William, Loudoun or Alexandria? Call (703) 940-0001 for legal representation from an experienced juvenile crimes lawyer.
Trying a Juvenile as an Adult
In many juvenile cases, the child will be adjudicated in a Juvenile and Domestic Relations (J&DR) district court, which is heard by a judge as opposed to a jury. However, some cases involving minors could be transferred to circuit court where the minor is tried as an adult.
If a child 14 years of age or older and accused of a felony, their case may be transferred to circuit court when:
- They are charged with an offense such as capital murder, first- or second-degree murder, murder by lynching or aggravated malicious wounding
- They have been accused of a violent felony and the prosecution requests that the case be certified in adult court
- The J&DR does not find probable cause, the prosecution could request a direct indictment
Expungement of Juvenile Records
Virginia law outlines the process for the expungement of criminal records for juvenile convictions. Each year, the clerk of the juvenile court is directed to destroy files, records, and electronic records for juveniles who have reached 19 years of age, as long as at least 5 years have passed since the date of the last hearing in the case. After the records have been expunged, the conviction will not show up in criminal background checks.
It is important to understand that expungement only applies to juvenile misdemeanors, and felony records are retained even after the child has reached adulthood. Whenever possible, we work to have charges reduced to a misdemeanor to avoid this problem in the future and protect our young clients from the most serious consequences of mistakes made when they were younger and still learning to navigate the world.
Start Planning Your Child’s Defense
The lasting implications of a juvenile criminal record can put a young person’s future in jeopardy. If your child has been arrested or accused of a crime, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Our Fairfax juvenile crimes attorney will fight for your child’s best interests and ensure that their rights are protected throughout the process. We will evaluate your case and the evidence to determine possible defense strategies for your child’s unique circumstances.