Protect your Children and Family from Unwanted State Interference - Beaverton Oregon Juvenile Lawyer
There are two categories of juvenile law that both involve children but in very different ways. Juvenile dependency law involves the State potentially removing a child and placing them in foster care. Juvenile delinquency law deals with a child or teenager under the age of 18 who is accused of committing a delinquent act (committed a crime in adult terms).
Juvenile Dependency Law
Juvenile Dependency law involves circumstances where the Department of Human Services (DHS in Oregon, CPS in other states) attempts to intervene in a family due to allegations of abuse and/or neglect. For some families, the state's offered assistance is welcomed and needed. In those instances, the state may remove children from an abusive parent’s home or demand a parent leave the home if it is believed they put their children at risk. For some, it means creating a “safety plan” to ensure the children remain safe in one or both parent’s homes while parents are offered services such as parenting classes, support in getting into drug or alcohol abuse treatment, or seeking mental health services for those who are struggling with mental health issues. It's difficult to know whether to accept DHS’s overtures (sometimes demands) or decline and close your door. My office has had a great deal of experience in the juvenile dependency system, and we can help you avoid DHS involvement by helping a parent file for emergency custody of their children, assisting a step-parent to petition for third-party custody as a psychological parent, or fling for custody or guardianship of someone’s grandchildren.
If DHS is knocking and telling you to file a custody, divorce, or guardianship case, call us for help. We have helped countless families avoid their children being placed in DHS foster care by filing a family law matter.
Juvenile Delinquency Law
Juvenile delinquencies are juvenile criminal matters. When a child under age 18 commits a crime (called a delinquent act in juvenile court) or is accused of committing a crime, they may receive a letter from the juvenile department asking for a meeting, or they may receive a Summons to appear in court. Either way, it's important to know what is happening and how to deal with it. Our office has represented teenagers in juvenile court for many years and advised parents of their options when their teen is spiraling out of control and has committed a crime.
The juvenile court process is distinctly different from adult court in many ways:>/
- Juveniles accused of a delinquent act will be assigned a juvenile department case manager that is not connected to the district attorney’s office. Their job is distinctly different from the district attorney who is responsible for filing a Petition alleging delinquent acts and prosecuting those allegations and youth’s defense attorney who is assigned to help the youth through the court process and explain and protect their rights during the court process.
- Juveniles are less likely to be incarcerated (in juvenile terms, held in detention) and more likely to be returned to their parents’s care with rules to follow. This varies greatly on the seriousness of the crime they are accused of committing.
- Juvenile trials are held before a judge. There is no right to a jury trial. The District Attorney still has to prove a youth has committed a juvenile act beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Juvenile courts focus on rehabilitation and not punishment. Youth are more likely to be put on probation or in diversion programs than incarcerated or held in detention.
For those youth that commit serious crimes or have repeated problems with the law, there is a greater chance that they will be placed into detention unless a plan can be developed to keep them, their family and the community safe. This could include detention followed by residential treatment, house arrest or ankle bracelet monitoring of their location 24/7.
For youth between ages 15-17 who are accused of committing Measure 11 crimes, the district attorney may opt to motion to have the youth waived into adult court. If waived into adult court, juveniles will be tried as adults and receive the same consequences as adults. Prior to 2019, the decision to waive a youth into adult court was solely at the discretion of the local district attorney. In 2019, the Oregon legislature changed the law to take that discretion away and leave it in the hands of a judge after an evidentiary hearing.
For a overview of Oregon’s juvenile justice system, we recommend starting here.
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If you are a parent whose child has been contacted by the police, the juvenile department or the district attorney’s office, call us to schedule an appointment to talk about yours and your child’s rights.
Finally, please remember that even a person under the age of 18 has the right to remain silent and not give a statement to the police. Consulting an attorney prior to police questioning could help protect your child from more serious charges or mischaracterization of their statements. It will also likely help you to know what to expect and make you more at ease when you go into a meeting with an officer or a juvenile department representative.