The phone rings. An important (i.e. paying) client calls to tell you that her 15-year-old son was arrested at school, and is accused of robbing a fellow student at gunpoint. “Don’t worry,” you reply, even though you’ve never handled a juvenile case. “I’ll run down to the detention center, bond him out and we’ll have this mess sorted out in no time. Once he’s out, we’ll file a bunch of motions and drag it out ’til it goes away. Besides, he’s just a kid, and we can always work out a deal for a probation.” That advice would be wrong � continue in that vein and a malpractice suit would probably be your next introduction to the juvenile-justice system.
Unfortunately, juvenile law is for most attorneys a mysterious, even arcane sideline of criminal practice, and few attorneys feel the need to understand or even familiarize themselves with the basic framework in which the juvenile-justice system operates. The purpose of this article is to give the criminal/family practitioner a broad overview of and an introduction to the nuts and bolts of the juvenile system.
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