What Is the Purpose of Juvenile Court?

Interviewer: What are the intents of the juvenile courts? Is it like adult court to punish people or rehab them and give them second chances?

Jack: The more serious the offense the more likely the detention, but we do find that the courts try very hard to work with juveniles so that there are no future criminal offenses. It’s all about trying to prevent a life of crime.

Do Parents Have a Legal Responsibility for Their Crimes of their Children?

Interviewer: What about the parents of a juvenile offender? Are they going to be affected by their child’s legal situation; will they be held responsible or what’s their role in it?

Jack: Parents, if there are offenses that involve property damage or injury parents are liable, up to an extent, for the offenses of their child. It’s all covered by statute, but mostly you see parents quite concerned that someone at such an early age is breaking the law, and that they found themselves in court far sooner than they ever imagined.

There is a lot of consternation on the part of parents that I see, at least the ones that hire private counsel. Those parents seem to think that this is serious. They want a private lawyer not only to help prevent serious punishment, but they want a private lawyer, at least in my case, to get the message across as clearly as possible.

Parents, when they talk to their youngsters, I refer to it as white noise, most teenagers start to tune the parents out. It’s helpful for me as the private lawyer to, maybe with a wink and a nod to the parent, let the juvenile know that this is unacceptable behavior, and that juvenile court is nothing to be taken lightly.

I will do everything I can to make sure their future is not impacted. However, they have to play by the rules from this point forward.

Interviewer: Are the parents responsible to get the juveniles to court dates and make sure they comply with all the conditions of either their arrest or conviction?

Jack: They are actually not responsible. The child is frequently told as a condition of probation, if given probation, to obey all house rules. The parent has the ability to call the probation officer and say, “My child’s acting out. He’s not coming home by curfew”, or whatever it is that they are being defiant about, the parent has the ability to call probation and the probation officer can take action.

That’s pretty much where the parent’s role comes in, but the parent isn’t responsible for anything. If the juvenile has to go to counseling, the parent needs to get him there, and if the juvenile has to perform community service, the parent essentially has to help accomplish that. If it’s a 13-year-old, how’s the 13-year-old going to get to the soup kitchen?

By Jack O’Donnell

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