With easy access to technology in Weld County, Colorado, more juveniles are being accused of internet and cell phone related crimes such as Internet Luring (C.R.S. 18-3-306) and Internet Sexual Exploitation of a Child (C.R.S. 18-3-405.4), and Sexting. What many teenagers think is a prank, or the normal exploration of their sexual desires with their girlfriend, can ruin their futures. The juvenile justice system in Greeley and the 19th Judicial District is complex and unforgiving. It has different procedures than those in the adult justice system.
The Differences in Juvenile and Adult Court
Juvenile court is less harsh and punitive than District Court. There, a child’s age and experience level are taken into consideration. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to present your child’s unique situation to a magistrate or judge. We advocate on your child’s behalf and work tirelessly to get a dismissal, a deferred judgment, or a diversion program – all ways to keep your child’s criminal record clean. We want every child to get fair treatment and the chance for a better future. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer for your child will provide a lifetime of benefits.
Conviction for Adults, Adjudication for Juveniles
When an adult pleads to or is found guilty of a crime, they receive a formal conviction and are punished accordingly. Luckily, juvenile crimes are classified less harshly, as ‘adjudications.’ Our legislature treats kids differently due to their age and inexperience with life. Instead of being convicted, kids and teenagers under the age of 18 are adjudicated. So, a juvenile receives an adjudication when they plead to or are found guilty of a crime. This is always the case, unless there is a Direct File in District Court, which labels the child as an adult. This is only done with very serious cases where death or life-threatening injuries occurred, or in some sex crime cases.
Trying Your Child As An Adult
Sometimes, the Weld County District Attorney feels the accused juvenile should be punished like an adult. In these cases, the District Attorney will request a Direct File in the District Court. Prior to 2012, Direct Filing was much more with the common. Thankfully, in 2012 the governor signed a legislative bill, which better protects the rights of children. Now, prosecutors can only Direct File on teens who are at least 16 years old, and accused of a violent crime like Kidnapping, Sexual Assault, or Murder. Even if a prosecutor chooses to Direct File, the juvenile can appeal the decision and try to get the case back to juvenile court. If a teen is convicted as an adult, the initial part of their sentence will be carried out in a youth program, but when the teenager turns 18, he or she can be transferred to the Colorado Department of Corrections to serve an adult sentence. The first goal of any attorney you choose to represent your child should be to keep him or her from being tried as an adult. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a law into effect in April, 2012 that no longer allows Weld County prosecutors to charge 14 and 15 year-olds in Colorado as adults without a transfer hearing. However, 16 and 17 year-olds may still be charged as adults without such a hearing in all Colorado jurisdictions including Greeley, Evans, Ault and Erie.
Understanding Juveniles Make Mistakes
Because there is an understanding that children often make mistakes while they are maturing, the Colorado juvenile justice system makes some concessions is cases that are not sexually related. For example, if your child is involved in a fight with another child and accused of assault, the system will make some allowances for your child's future if a juvenile adjudication is structured properly. Our attorneys have experience with hundreds of juvenile cases and will make sure they are structured in such a way that your child will not end up ruining their life before it has really begun.