The Juvenile Justice System was created to address how children between 10 and 18 years old are treated when they violate municipal or state laws.  The Children’s Code was put in place to sanction juvenile offenders, while also trying to keep in mind the best interests of the juvenile, his victims and the greater community at large.

In Colorado, parents are legally required to be present for any questioning, and the juveniles are entitled to a prompt hearing to determine if they should still be detained or if they can return home with their parents.  After the detention hearing, the prosecution has 72 hours to file charges.  The juvenile justice system moves quickly, and that is why it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Colorado juvenile defense attorney as soon as possible.  You must act quickly to do the best possible job of protecting your child’s rights.  It is advisable to speak with an attorney before volunteering your child to speak with police for any reason.

Juvenile punishment vs. adult punishment

In some courts, prosecutors and judges may hand out adult-type punishments for certain juvenile offenses, but in many others, the focus is on attempting to rehabilitate juveniles based on the notion that they are more amenable to rehabilitation than adults.

It’s been proven through science that the brain is not completely formed, including the ability to reason accurately, until a person is in their early to mid-20s.  That means that juveniles and young adults are less likely to have the capacity to calculate the consequences of their actions and more likely to be driven and influenced by their peers and societal pressures.

The Supreme Court has acknowledged this reduced capacity to reason accurately, specifying three general differences between adults and juveniles:

  • Juveniles lack maturity and a full sense of responsibility, resulting in “impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions”
  • Juveniles are “more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures”
  • A juvenile’s character is not as fully formed as an adult’s Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 578 (2005).

Depending on the crime, juveniles will probably face some combination of rehabilitation and punishment.  In cases where serious violence is involved, a prosecutor may ask the court to try the juvenile as an adult.  This is why it is important to have a skilled attorney in your corner as early as possible.  The prospects of being tried as an adult are daunting and can carry a much harsher punishment than those connected with juvenile punishments.

Generally, when a juvenile goes to prison, known as the Division of Youth Corrections (DYC), the maximum sentence is two years.  But the sentence can be as much as five years if certain aggravating criteria is met. While juvenile prisons seek to rehabilitate, they are largely used to punish the juvenile.

Mandated sentencing for certain types of juvenile offenders

Colorado lawmakers have mandated sentences for some types of juvenile offenders who have previously run afoul of the law:

    • Habitual Juvenile Offender: a juvenile who has previously been twice adjudicated for separate and distinct delinquent acts that would constitute felonies if committed by an adult.
    • Mandatory Juvenile Offender: a juvenile who has been adjudicated twice for delinquent acts or has been adjudicated and then had probation revoked for another delinquent act. (Mandatory one-year out-of-home placement or up to two years in the county jail if the juvenile is 18 or older at the time of sentencing.)
    • Repeat Juvenile Offender: a juvenile who has been adjudicated but is subsequently adjudicated for an offense that would constitute a felony if committed by an adult. (Mandatory one-year out-of-home placement or up to two years in the county jail if the juvenile is 18 or older at the time of sentencing.)
    • Violent Juvenile Offender: a juvenile who is adjudicated for committing a delinquent act that constitutes a “crime of violence,” which includes certain felonies committed when weapons are used or serious bodily injury occurs. (One-year out-of-home placement unless the juvenile is younger than 12 years old, in which case the court may make exceptions.)
    • Aggravated Juvenile Offender: a juvenile who is adjudicated for acts that would constitute a class one or two felony if committed by an adult, or a juvenile who has been adjudicated for a felony and is subsequently adjudicated for a crime of violence, or a juvenile adjudicated for any felony sex offense. (Up to five years in the DYC; seven years for class one felony.)

Even if you know that your child needs correction and you believe that detention may yield positive results, your child still needs legal representation from a Colorado juvenile defense lawyer to ensure that any punishment meted out is fair and appropriate.

Contact Decker & Jones regarding your child’s juvenile defense

Children make mistakes all the time, but when those mistakes rise to the level of possible criminal activity, you must take whatever steps are needed to ensure that they receive fair and impartial treatment from the Colorado court system.  You do not want the specter of one mistake made early in life hanging over your child’s head for many years to come or even possibly for the rest of their life.

At Decker & Jones, we believe that providing the best possible juvenile defense strategies includes solutions and an action plan that incorporates prevention strategies to keep a child from becoming a chronic offender.  We are strong advocates of ensuring your child can positively take charge of their lives both now and in the future.

Ironically, getting into trouble with the law sometimes provides an effective pathway to resolving problems because of the resources made available to parents through the courts. Drug addiction also influences delinquent behavior, and the juvenile court may order some form of treatment. A juvenile’s parents are required by law to ensure their child’s compliance with court-ordered treatment plans, so the guidance of a juvenile defense lawyer will help to ensure that you fully understand all that is expected of you and your child so that you do not inadvertently find yourselves in even more trouble.

When you need to defend your child from criminal charges, turn to Decker & Jones.  At Decker & Jones, we have nearly 50 years of combined legal experience and have provided people with compassionate and comprehensive legal services as they fight a wide variety of juvenile criminal charges.  We will thoroughly evaluate your case and provide you and your child with the best possible legal options for your situation.

Contact us today at our Golden or Denver offices at 303-573-5253 or by filling out our online contact form for a free consultation to see how we can put our skills and experience to work for you.

Juvenile Statutes

Have you been charged with one of the following? Click the statute numbers for more info. We understand that the wording can be confusing, so feel free to call Decker & Jones today for your complimentary consultation.