JUVENILE CRIMINALS – JUVENILE COURT, TRYING AS AN ADULT, AND SEALING OF RECORDS.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF A MINOR?
In Nevada, as with all states, a “minor” is any person under the age of 18. (N.R.S. 129.010). Consequently, anyone 18 years of age or older is legally an adult. One of the responsibilities that attaches to being an adult is that you can be held responsible for all of your actions. Should you violate any laws, you will be tried in an adult criminal court rather than in juvenile court.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I’M ACCUSED OF A CRIME WHILE STILL A MINOR?
The short answer is, it depends. The general rule is that minors that are accused of violating a law or committing a crime are subject to the Juvenile Court system. There are, however, a number of situations in which a minor may be tried as an adult:
- For certain serious crimes, such as Murder and Attempted Murder, the Juvenile Court has no Jurisdiction and the minor will be tried as an adult.
- Attempted murder where the Juevenile is at least 16 years of age;
- Any felony committed with the intent to create a great risk of death or substantial bodily harm to more than one person, where death or substantial bodily harm actually occurs, and where the felony is committed:
- On school property when students or faculty are present;
- At an activity sponsored by a school; or
- On a school bus.
- For minors who are at least 16 years of age and have previously been convicted of a delinquent charge, the crimes listed below will automatically be certified and tried as adults.
- Sexual Assault involving the use or threat of force or violence;
- Attempted Sexual Assault involving the use or threat of force or violence;
- Offense or attempted offense involving use or threat of use of firearm;
- Any category A or B felony where the minor was not identified and charged until they reached 21 years of age.
- For minors accused of Murder or Attempted Murder, and who are at least 13 years old, the District Attorney may file a motion to have the minor certified and tried as an adut.
- For other serious crimes, where the minor is at least 14 years old, the District Attorney can file a motion to have the minor certified and tried as an adult. This process is known as “presumptive certification” and applies to offenses that would have been felonies if committed by an adult, or if the minor escaped, or attempted to escape, from lawful custody in a facility for detention or correctional care of children.
- Upon a motion by the District Attorney, the Juvenile Court may certify and try a minor as an adult after conducting an investigation and hearing on the matter. Usually, this only occurs for felonies, but can also be done for gross misdemeanors where the violence or severity of the crime warrant such a motion. District Attorney may also file such a motion if the minor has a criminal history.
- For minor traffic offenses, the Juvenile Court may transfer the case to either the Justice Court or the Municipal Court, with some restrictions.
THE RIGHTS OF A MINOR IN CUSTODY
If a minor is taken into custody by a police or probation officer, the officer’s actions are determined by whether the minor is believe to have committed a delinquent offense or a status offense. The first step, regardless of the type of offense, is for the officer to attempt to notify the child’s parent or guardian.
What is the differene between a delinquent offense and a status offense?
Usually, the minor must be released to the custody of a parent, guardian, or other responsible adult who agrees, in writing, to bring the child before the Juveinle Court as the court specifies. If the child is not, or cannot be, released to a parent, guardian, or other responsible adult, then the minor must be either taken to Juvenile Court, or the Court must be notified of the detention. The Juvenile Court will then decide whether the minor will be detained, released to the custody of a parent or guardian, or conditionally released for supervised detention.
If the offense is a domestic violence offense, the minor must remain in custody for at least 12 hours, unless an appropriate alternative is available. However, the minor cannot be detained in a detention facility, jail, or police station unless
- The minor is a fugitive;
- The minor was taken into custody pursuant to a warrant; or
- There is probable cause to believe the minor will commit another offense, run away, or be taken away.
If the the minor is accused of a status offense (truancy, runaway, etc.), then the minor cannot be detained in a detention facility, jail, or police station.
Please note: regardless of whether the offense is a delinquent or status offense, a minor may not be detained at a jail or police station unless there is no alternative available. If there is no alternative, the minor must be separated from the adults who are detained there.
I’ve been accused of a crime, will i be tried as an adult?
You can only be tried as an adult under the circumstances described above, depending on the crime, your age, and your past criminal history. Generally, only minors over the aage of 13 who are accused of felonies will be certified to be tried as an adult. Even so, with most crimes, you can only be tried as an adult if the prosecutor files a motion with the Juvenile Court to have you certified and tried as an adult. The Court will then hold a hearing where the prosecutor will argue their case for certification and your attorney can argue your case against certification. The Judge will then rule whether you are tried as a minor or as an adult. The trials progress in much the same way, except that if you are deemed a minor, the trial and possible punishments will take place in the Juvenile Court system whereas if you are deemed an adult, the trial and possible sentences will be within the District Court, Municipal Court, Justice Court or Federal Court.
Please Note: If you are being charged with more than one delinquency charge arising out of the same situation, and you are certified as an adult for one of the charges, you can be tried as an adult for all of the delinquency charges. For example, if a minor were to get into a fight while carrying a concealed weapon, they may be charged with both the carrying of the concealed weapon and battery. If the battery is charged as a felony, and the prosecutor successfully moves to have the minor certified as an adult, then the minor would also be tried as an adult for the charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
What if the minor is not certified as an adult and is convicted by the Juvenile Court?
The Juvenile Court has many options for sentencing an accused minor. Some common otions include:
- Placing the minor in the custody of a suitable person for supervision in the child’s home, or another home;
- Committing the minor to the custody of a licensed public or private institution or agency authorized to care for children;
- Permitting the minor to reside in a residence without immediate supervision of an adult, but under strict supervision of the Court, if the minor is at least 16 and would benefit from such an arrangement;
- Ordering the minor, the minor’s parent or guardian, or both, to perform community service;
- Ordering the minor to complete a program of cognitive training and human development, a program for the arts, or a program of sports or physical fitness (usually only in the case of minors not previously determined to be delinquent or in need of supervision and where there was use, or threat of use, of force or violence.);
- Suspending the minor’s driver’s license for between 90 days and 2 years;
- Imposing a fine;
- Ordering medical, physical, psychological, or other care, examination, or treatment in the best interests of the minor;
- Ordering the parent or guardian to refrain from any conduct the court believes has caused the child to come under the court’s jurisdiction.
In cases where the minor is alleged to be in need of supervision:
- If the minor has never been in Juvenile Cout for any infraction, then the Court must admonish the minor and refer them to counseling or similar services; and
- If the minor is found to be a habitual truant, then the Court must impose a fine or order community service and suspend the minor’s driver’s license.
In cases where the minor is determined to be delinquent:
- The Court may commit the minor to a detention center, so long as the minor is at least 12 years old;
- The Court may commit the minor to the custody of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) or Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for suitable placement;
- The Court may order the minor, parent or guardian, or both, to provide restitution to the victim; and/or
- The Court may order the minor to undergo an evaluation to determine whether the minor has any alcohol or drug dependencies.
If the minor is certified as an adult
The minor’s attorney may petition the Court to have to case transferred back to Juvenile Court. These transfers are generally only permitted if the Court finds that there are “exceptional circumstances”, such as ineffective assistance of counsel or serious procedural errors committed by the prosecutor or judge during the hearing to certify the minor as an adult.
Absent such a transfer, the minor will be tried as an adult in either the District Court, Municipal Court, Justice Court, or Federal Court.
What happens after i have served my sentence?
Once you have completed your sentence, you will want to look into having your records sealed by the Juvenile Court. Once your records are sealed, they do not have to be disclosed on future school or job applications.
Generally, Juvenile Court records are automatically sealed when the minor reaches the ages of 21. There are a few exceptions to this rule that require the individual to request the Juvenile Court to seal the records. Such a request can only be made after the indivual has reached 30 years of age.:
- Sexual Assault;
- Battery with the intent to commit a sexual assault;
- Lewdness with a child; or
- Any felony offense that involves the use, or threat of use, of force or violence.
Please Note: If the individual is convicted of any offense after attaining adulthood, but before turning 30, the Juvenile Court may not seal the Juvenile records.
So i have to wait until i’m 21 before my records can be sealed?
Not necessarily. If your juvenile delinquency conviction was at least 3 years ago, you can petition the Juvenile Court to seal the records.
WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO?
The process is fairly simple:
- Your attorney or probation officer has to petition the Court for an Order to Seal your records;
- The Court then notifies the District Attorney and schedules a hearing;
- At the Hearing, the Court will look at the specific records you are seeking to seal, and:
- If you have since been convicted of any felonies or misdemeanors involving moral turpitude (conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals);
- Have you been rehabilitated? (What is the likelihood that you will commit future crimes?)
The process is almost exactly the same if you were convicted of one of the four crimes ennumerated above (Sexual Assault, Battery with the intent to commit sexual assault, Lewdness with a child, or a violent felony), but cannot be initiated until you reach 30 years of age. At that time:
- You or your Attorney can petition the Juvenile Court to seal the records;
- The Court will notify the District Attorney and Chief Probation Officer, and will schedule a hearing;
- At the hearing, the Court will likely seal the records, as long as you have not been convicted of any offense since turning 21 (other than a minor traffic offenses).
Please Note: If you petition to have your records sealed and the Court grants the petition, the Court will still have the ability to inspect those sealed records, and take them into account when determining your sentence, if you commit a subsequent crime prior to turning 21.