Recently in Juvenile Defense Category

November 23, 2013

D.C. Defunds Youth Courts Forcing Adult Trials for Juveniles

The criminal justice system has historically accounted for youthful indiscretions and offenses through its juvenile court system. Defendants under the age of 18 and charged with a crime have been able to enter diversionary and reintegrating programs rather that the adult justice system. In the juvenile justice system, courts focus on rehabilitation to get young offenders through treatment programs and other educational opportunities to get them back on their feet and headed in the right direction.

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Unfortunately, D.C. has begun systematically defunding the juvenile justice system, which is pushing young offenders into the adult system. This can result in more severe penalties for offenders and reduce the opportunities for reintegration and rehabilitation. Our Washington D.C. juvenile defense attorneys are experienced with providing strategic counsel and advocacy for offenders throughout the area. We are committed to providing result-driven advocacy focused on our clients' rights and interests.

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September 18, 2012

D.C. Cops Search for 6-Year-Old Robbery Suspect

The robbery of cell phones is certainly not an uncommon crime in Washington D.C. these days. swing1.jpg

However, D.C. criminal defense lawyers understand that the description of one of the suspects caused quite a stir: A 6 or 7-year-old boy, standing about 4 feet tall and weighing 100 pounds. He would be in first grade.

The victim was reportedly approached by a group of young people between the ages of 6 and 14 years-old.

There is no doubt that juveniles are increasingly being charged as adults for serious, felony crimes - including robbery. According to D.C. Criminal Code 22-2801 and D.C. Criminal Code 22-4502, robbery is is punishable by between 2 to 15 years in prison - assuming you haven't used a firearm, in which case the maximum doubles to 30 years in prison. If a person has a prior record, a minimum mandatory of between 5 or 10 years could be imposed.

But that's only if the the juvenile were charged as an adult.

The juvenile system works differently. The ultimate goal of the juvenile justice system is diversion, whereas the adult justice system centers on punishment. The idea is that a juvenile is more likely than an adult to turn his or her life around.

Recent Supreme Court decisions have determined that even when a juvenile is charged as an adult for a serious crime, he or she can not be sentenced to death or life in prison, as an adult would for the same crime.

Prosecutors use a number of factors to determine whether a juvenile defendant should be tried as an adult or a juvenile. For the most part, it comes down to the nature of the crime and the age of the juvenile. There is no question that a 17-year-old who commits robbery is going to be treated differently than a 6-year-old.

In fact, for any child under the age of 10, a juvenile defense lawyer may be able to make a strong case that the child did not understand right from wrong - particularly if he or she was under the influence or pressure from older peers.

According to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice, about 7 percent of the 1.5 million juvenile cases handled each year involve children under the age of 12. That amounts to about 110,000 total in the country. The vast majority of those cases are going to result in diversion programs.

The D.C. Deputy Attorney, quoted by The Washington Post with regard to the 6-year-old suspect, said that while it is unusual, it is not unprecedented. He said children as young as 8 years-old have been prosecuted for kidnapping, sex offenses, theft and assault.

The majority of juvenile offenses, however, are non-violent (about 70 percent). This case, although a felony, was not reported to be a violent crime, but rather a robbery by snatching.

Police are still cautiously vetting the information they received, as the victims were reportedly in the neighborhood to purchase drugs and had stopped at a fast food restaurant when they were reportedly robbed by the youths.

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February 13, 2012

Alleged Underage Drinkers Targeted by Sensational Journalism in Washington D.C.

Local news reporters recently went undercover in an effort to investigate alcohol sales to underage drinkers in Washington D.C.

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The news station, 9 News Now, used a hidden camera and microphone to film and record teens who were allegedly purchasing alcohol from a local liquor store.

Teens were heard on tape saying they had purchased beer and liquor from the store for years. Some were as young as 14.

Aside from the sensationalism of the issue (calling underage drinking an "epidemic"), this type of news reporting violates a host of journalistic ethics. In the one case where a reporter actually did identify herself to one of the teens filmed, the teen had no comment. The fact that these teens were filmed without their consent or that of their parents may be an issue that a Washington D.C. juvenile defense attorney could bring up if there was ever an attempt to use those tapes as evidence in court.

Still, most underage drinking charges don't come as a result of a news investigation.
Often, a minor who is questioned or arrested for underage drinking is scared. He or she may say or do things that could be stacked against them in a criminal case.

While an arrest for underage drinking may not be seen as a huge deal, if the defendant isn't properly represented, it has the potential to inflict serious negative consequences on a young person's long-term future. Not only could he or she be forced to pay a $300 fine and undergo a 90-day suspension of driving privileges, a criminal record could affect a teen's shot at being accepted into a choice university. If the teen is already a college student, they face the possibility of academic discipline - up to and including expulsion, which would inevitably affect future employment prospects.

With a good attorney, offenses like this are often pleaded down to lesser charges that involve a diversion program or community service. Sometimes, we can even negotiate to have the charges dismissed.

Many of the alleged underage drinkers in the 9 News story were identified as having attended local high schools.

Most police agencies take a hard line on this issue because it's one that is often complained about by older taxpayers. Plus, law enforcement officials want to be seen as tough on crime, and it's an easy enough arrest to make, particularly in a college town, such as Washington D.C.

The 9 News team reported that in the case of this store, the ID cards of teens were never checked by the store owner. In some cases, though, young people under the age of 21 will try to purchase alcohol or enter a bar with a fake ID in Washington D.C.

In those instances, the charge young people are actually facing is misrepresentation of age, which is a misdemeanor. That means there is a lot an attorney can negotiate for you, including dismissal of the charges in exchange for community service and a fine.

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February 4, 2012

Occupy D.C. Protesters Vow To Stay in McPherson Square

The Occupy D.C. protest movement is still going strong, even though news reports have faded off in recent months.

As the news agencies turn their attention toward the political season, the Occupy movement has lost some steam in news coverage, but not in effort. There are still many people in many cities who are trying to make a difference and improve our country. Yet, for many people, these protests have led to legal problems.megaphone.bmp
Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers have scoffed at the way city leaders and police have treated these people -- the same people whose rights they are sworn to uphold. Some have been beaten and others have simply been treated unfairly. Many cases have involved juveniles charges in Washington D.C., while others are young adults in or just out of college.

According to a recent story by Agence France-Presse, protesters have said the movement "will never die," vowing to ensure the people in power still feel their pressure.

Some protesters have said that if city officials attempt to evict them from encampments, they will simply grow, as it will show that authorities are trying to abuse their power. Outrage over economic inequities and power over everyday citizens is what has led the protests to go strong now since October.

Groups have since grown to Occupy DC, Occupy Washington and Occupy Congress, among others. Groups are still trying to remain strong despite city leaders trying to evict protest camps nationwide.

While eviction is a major concern for protesters, it isn't the only issue they face. Criminal charges have been been levied against Occupy protesters in D.C. and in other cities across the nation. This is another tactic that police and others have used as a way to intimidate people into leaving.

While this may cause the movement to expand, it also has worked to disrupt many lives. While a majority of the charges have been misdemeanor charges in Washington D.C., they still can cause major problems. A criminal record for a high school student trying to get into college can be devastating. A college graduate who is trying to make their voice heard could end up with fewer job and career prospects if they are arrested and convicted.

That's why fighting these charges, regardless of how minor they may seem, is important. Job applications often ask about convictions, even for misdemeanor charges. If a person answers yes, they could end up being eliminated from many job opportunities or promotion chances.

While the movement is powerful and necessary, the protesters themselves must ensure that they have sound legal representation if they are in trouble with the law. Peaceful protests are allowed by law and law enforcement should respect that. Many of the arrests made have been on false pretenses and can be cleared up by prosecutors dropping the cases.

But even an arrest can be damaging and police are using their power to intimidate, in many cases. Make sure your voice is heard and you protest peacefully. But if officers trying to break it up through unlawful arrests, contact an experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer immediately. You have rights and they must be respected.

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December 21, 2011

Are Washington, D.C., Police Racially Profiling Guests at Public Housing?

A potentially disturbing trend is taking place at local housing projects, as black men are alleging that the DC Housing Authority Police and Metropolitan Police are giving them "barring notices" and arresting them under false pretenses, WUSA9 reports.

This is especially troubling for Washington D.C. juveniles charged with crimes, not knowing their rights or how to react to such a situation. Sometimes, young people are charged as being suspects by police, but they actually become victims by authorities who are able to manipulate the law.
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Our Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers recognize that young people who are charged with crimes can end up with long-term consequences as a result of a problem as a teenager. We also realize that teenagers who may be in the wrong place at the wrong time often are cited by police without a whole lot of proof.

A strong police interrogation can turn an innocent teenager into a guilty one, especially when that young person doesn't realize that he or she has a right to remain silent and are under no obligation to speak with officers. Detectives may tell suspects that the only way they can help themselves is to give a statement, but teens don't know that may not be the best thing for them to do at that time.

Even arrests for misdemeanors, seemingly minor crimes, can lead to disqualification for scholarships and college admissions, a job or other necessities that lead to a solid future. Juvenile defendants require strong criminal representation.

In this case, several young African-American men believe that housing police officers and metro officers are forbidding them from visiting housing projects merely based on what they're wearing.

The news station WUSA9 reports that housing authority officials say people are barred from going to public housing projects if they engage in activity that "threatens the safety, health or peaceful enjoyment" of the area for other residents.

One 21-year-old told the news station that he has no prior criminal history, but he was thrown to the ground, searched by officers and had an officer's boot placed on his neck simply for the way he looked.

Another man, a Board of Education member who has a contract to serve on the property, was also arrested. After public pressure, charges were dismissed, but an arrest record still stands.

Local Washington, D.C., criminal defense lawyers have begun working to fight the problem, which they believe is racial discrimination. Another man told the news station that while he has an arrest record from his teenage years, he is now a college graduate who is attempting to be a role model to other young people in the projects.

This is certainly an issue worth looking at because there is no excuse or reason for racially profiling. In 2011, this is an issue that simply shouldn't be cropping up. Police must have a reasonable suspicion, called reasonable doubt, to investigate any person in this country. Simply looking a certain way or having a past criminal history isn't grounds.

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November 25, 2011

University of Maryland Armed Robbery Leads to Arrest of Man in Washington D.C.

A 21-year-old man is in custody in Washington D.C. as authorities attempt to connect him to an armed robbery on the University of Maryland College Park campus, The Baltimore Sun reports.

D.C.'s Metropolitan police and George Washington police teamed with University of Maryland campus police to work on the case. A charge of armed robbery in Washington D.C. is a serious charge that can lead to prison time -- up 30 years.
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If you are arrested with armed robbery or suspicion of armed robbery, you should contact an experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. You have a right to remain silent and that can't be used against you. If you choose to speak with police upon arrest, you can have whatever you say recorded and used in support of a conviction.

When dealing with campus-based crimes, defendants often face more scrutiny than off-campus crimes. That's because there's a financial impact to crime happening on a college campus. If news spreads that a college campus is susceptible, it can hurt admissions, keep recruits away and lead to a decline in the university's image. Even cases of college drug crimes in Washington D.C. can be handled rather zealously compared to typical street crime.

And the charges can be even more damaging to a college-aged or juvenile defendant. While older adults may be more financially stable and able to take the difficulties of facing criminal charges, a college student may face lifelong consequences that can hamper their future.

In some cases, a mere arrest can lead to expulsion from a university and a conviction can get a person kicked out of the school. These could be in serious situations only, but it depends on the circumstances. Even convictions of minor crimes can lead to economic consequences that can make affording college difficult or lead to disqualification from a scholarship.

In the University of Maryland case, a man was being held by Washington D.C. police on an unrelated robbery charge when police in Maryland say they found evidence linking him to an attack where a student was robbed at knifepoint.

The man faces charges of armed robbery, first-degree assault, theft and other, less-serious offenses, the newspaper reports. Campus police are still looking for a second suspect.

Two men who were wearing masks and dark clothing approached a male student who was walking near dorms one weeknight around midnight, the newspaper states. News reports state that a similar attack took place at George Washington University in Washington D.C., but it's unclear if there is a connection.

Because the suspects in this case were masked, wearing dark clothing, it was late at night and it was a surprise attack, it's unlikely that witnesses will be able to help here. Unless there was something distinct about the attackers, anyone could have committed the crime.

In armed robbery cases, the penalties are so severe that every aspect of the case must be looked at and probed for evidence that can help the defendant. And the defendant must have sound legal representation at every stage of the case.

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October 24, 2011

On Halloween Related Criminal Charges in Washington, DC

pumpkin_halloween.jpgAs Halloween approaches, many in the Washington, DC area are enjoying the cooler weather (especially if you live in a building where the air has already been switched over to heat) buying costumes and decorating and planning parties. As a DC criminal defense attorney, I get to see another side of the holiday.

Obviously, many people will be driving to parties and drinking alcohol. I urge you to drink responsibly and use a designated driver because the DC Police, US Park Police, and Capitol Police will be out in force to make DUI arrests. It is also common for the police to set up field sobriety checkpoints in areas where drunk driving is likely such as Adams Morgan and in an around the US Capitol grounds. There will also likely be an increase in alcohol related arrests throughout the District such as fake ID charges (ABC violations), underage drinking, possession of an open container (POCA), and simple assault.
In case you are wondering why I have included simple assault, it's because most arrests for it in the District happen at a bar and often involve the innocent victim being charged. I have represented many clients who had actually been assaulted by the bouncers who are double their size, been banged and bruised, and had their cell phones smashed, only to wind up in the back seat of a police car. One reason for this frequent occurrence is that the police will often ask the club staff what happened and write this version of the story in the police report. This is especially true if the club or bar regularly hires off-duty police officers for security. Such officers have unofficially told me that while they represent the Metropolitan Police Force, they are being employed by the business and tend to do what the owners expect of them.

I should also mention that we often see a lot of juvenile arrests around Halloween. Whether, your child is arrested for destruction of property, assault, or just a prank gone wrong, as I have mentioned in previous posts on this issue, contact an attorney immediately so there is a better chance of moving past the unfortunate incident.

June 4, 2011

Washington, DC juvenile charges have involved more serious crimes recently, and there has been a reduction in car theft charges

Juvenile Lock Up.jpgAccording to a recent story in the Washington Post, auto theft by juveniles is down considerably in the District while robbery, carjacking, burglary, and other violent crimes have seen a sharp increase. "This year, juveniles account for 7 percent of overall arrests in the city -- but about 45 percent of all arrests for robbery and carjacking, and 35 percent of burglary arrests" according to D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. One major increase has been in the theft of smart phones out of the hand of the owners. Stealing a cell phone or other electronic device out the hand of somebody on the Metro or on the street is considered a robbery in Washington, DC.

As a Washington, DC juvenile defense attorney, I often hear from a parent whose child has never been in any real trouble before and now is facing a major juvenile charge. One of the most important things I can do for these clients is help them navigate through the juvenile justice system, so that they have a better chance of putting this behind them and moving on with the rest of their lives. Despite budget cuts and shift in city policy, there are still programs and services available to help juvenile defendants, but you will not have access to them in many cases if you don't ask. It is important to remember that if your child has been arrested on a juvenile offense in Washington, DC, it does not mean that all hope is lost, there may be a lot that can be done to help move beyond this.

May 27, 2011

Washington, DC Teen Arrested for Shooting at Police: On DC Juvenile Crimes

walther.jpgAccording to a recent story in the Washington Times, Metropolitan Police (MPD) were called to the 700 block of Crittenden Street NE in Washington, DC for reports of a male armed with a gun. When they arrived at the address, they saw a teenager on the porch holding a gun. According to reports, police ordered the suspect to drop his weapon. He refused and a shootout occurred. After an MPD officer was shot several times, the suspect fled the scene but later returned to the same address and was found hiding under the porch with the gun. This juvenile was arrested and charged with assault with intent to kill while armed. The injured MPD officer was treated at a DC hospital and is considered to be in stable condition. The juvenile had some type of minor injury for which he received treatment.

As a Washington, DC attorney who represents juveniles charged with crimes, one of the most important things to be concerned about in a case like this whether the juvenile will be charged as an adult. In the District of Columbia, if a juvenile is 15 years of age or older and has a prior juvenile record, the Family Court Judge that handles juvenile cases can have the case transferred so that the defendant will be tried as adult. If the defendant is tried as an adult and convicted, he or she will likely be committed to DC Department of Youth Services (DYRS) custody until reaching the age of 18 and transferred to an adult prison to serve the remainder of the sentence.

If you child has been charged as a juvenile, or you know that they are being investigated for a crime, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to make sure their rights are protected.

April 19, 2011

Washington, DC Juvenile Defendant Escapes from Detention Center

razor_wire.jpgAccording to a recent story in the Washington Post, a teen being held a secure juvenile detention center picked the lock on the wooden door to his room, assaulted a guard, stole his wallet and keys, climbed over a fence using a ladder lying on the ground, and sped off in the guard's vehicle. This teen had been charged with burglary in Washington, DC and after conviction, was sent to the facility.

The facility is called New Beginnings Youth Development Center, and while it is located in Maryland, it is used and operated by Washington, DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). Since the facility opened its doors in May of 2009, three have been three escapes. New Beginnings was created in an effort to replace the crumbling Oak Hill facility which is now closed. The DC City Council originally planned to construct a suitable replacement for Oak Hill but it seems that plans were abandoned. DYRS houses some juveniles at New Beginnings, but also contracts with juvenile justice programs in other states across the country. Many of Washington, DC's troubled youth are sent to Arizona.

While this situation highlights a youth who may actually require a more restrictive environment, as a Washington, DC lawyer who handles juvenile defense cases, I am concerned about the general treatment of juvenile defendants within the justice system. As I have discussed in other posts, the purpose of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation rather than incarceration. The defendant's name is not supposed to be released to the public, the court process is limited to necessary parties, and a juvenile defendant is not found guilty but rather determined to be delinquent and in need of rehabilitation. While this is the purpose of the juvenile court system, it often works quite differently in practice. There are various programs available that can actually help, but it is up to your child's juvenile defense lawyer to fight for access to these services.

March 10, 2011

Assault at Washington, DC Metro Station Looks to Be another Juvenile Offense

DC Metro Assault.jpgAccording to a recent Washington Post article, a man was assaulted with a knife at the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station. He was stabbed in the leg by up to three alleged juvenile offenders. The victim was taken to a local hospital. His injuries are not reported to be life-threatening.

The Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Metro officials have said the assault occurred at approximately 9:35 p.m. near the 7th street station entrance. This entrance was closed for a half hour while the police investigated. MPD and Metro Police are searching for the three youths alleged to be involved. On the night of the assault, there was a Wizards basketball game being played at the Verizon center located directly above the Metro station. Police do not yet know if the crowd played any part in this attack.

As a Washington, DC juvenile defense lawyer, I have seen recent increases in juvenile offenses as well as a seeming breakdown of the Washington, DC juvenile justice system. The two are not unrelated. In the past, youth found to be delinquent by the court were often sent to Oak Hill. After years of negligent and underfunding, the facility had begun to crumble. Problems were not limited to the building itself however, as overcrowding and violence became commonplace.

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February 4, 2011

On School Discipline and Expulsion in Washington, DC

chalkboard.jpgIn Washington, DC, children are constitutionally entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). When a student attending a District of Columbia Public School (DCPS), or Public Charter School, gets into trouble in school by disobeying school rules or committing a crime, the school can take a variety of steps. The regulations place different types of violations into one of five tiers, depending on how serious they are. A tier one violation may be not listening to the teacher. A tier five violation involves the student committing a crime that involves the police or engaging in violent behavior.

For a minor violation, such as failing to obey a teacher, the school will usually give a verbal warning. The next step is to give a written warning in the student's file. If the student still fails to comply, the school will refer the student to the administrator. For a more serious violation, the police may be called and the student will be immediately referred to the administrator.

Once the student has been referred to the administrator, the student can be placed in detention, in-school suspension, out of school suspension, or possibly as a last resort, expelled. However, here is where the problems arise. The school is not allowed to kick the student out of school until they have a hearing to determine if the conduct actually occurred and if the suspension is appropriate. The only time they are allowed to remove the child from school before this hearing is with a tier five violation or a serious threat of harm to the school if the child remains. The schools generally do not follow this rule and kick the student out anyway. You are allowed to have a lawyer who handles school discipline cases at your child's hearing, and from what I have seen, it goes a long way in helping ensure the school officials follow the rules.

If the student has been diagnosed with, or is suspecting of having a disability, the student is entitled to an Individualized Education Program (IEP). When the student is charged with a violation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires the school to hold a manifestation hearing before a disciplinary hearing. A manifestation hearing determines if the student's behavior was a result of their disability. If so, the student generally cannot be disciplined but will rather have their IEP reexamined.

December 6, 2010

Washington, DC Police Make an Arrest in What Appears to Be a Random Assault Allegedly Committed by a Juvenile Offender

According to a story by NBC Washington169403_central_phoenix_corridor.jpg, a woman was walking home with her groceries when she was assaulted on the 1300 bock Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast Washington, DC in November. She was punched in the face by a group of teenagers, and suffered a broken jaw. According to statements, the attack appears to completely random and there is no information if her attackers took anything from her.

There are a lot of reasons why a juvenile may commit crimes, and there are theories ranging from social conditions to mental health to even gang initiations. In other words, nobody really knows why there has been an increase in juvenile crimes in Washington, DC. What we do know is that if a juvenile defendant is to have any real chance at moving beyond their current situation, they need a criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with the juvenile justice system. As I have discussed in previous posts, the most important this is to help juvenile defendants gain access to rehabilitation and keep them out of District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation (DYRS) Custody.

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October 27, 2010

DC City Council Votes to Make Life Harder for Juvenile Criminal Defendants

952313_gavel.jpgIf you have read my other posts on juvenile defense, you have seen my thoughts on the purpose of the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system in Washington, DC, and throughout the country, was created to rehabilitate troubled youth and steer them away from a life of crime. It is for this reason that the defendants' names are not made public and court records are sealed. While things may not always work out so well in practice, the intentions were good. This may change.

The DC City Council has just voted to allow the release of juvenile defendants' names and criminal records. This includes not only crimes for which the juvenile was convicted, but also for any crimes for which they were merely arrested. The justification of the DC City Council is it that it will make it easier for the police to solve crimes with access to juvenile records.

There was a lot of debate among the council members about whether this would make it harder to rehabilitate juveniles because they have little chance of a productive future once branded as criminals for life, but in the end the council voted to approve the bill. Mayor Fenty has not said whether he will sign the bill into law before leaving office.

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September 23, 2010

Juvenile Defendants Lack Access to Needed Mental Health Services in Washington, DC

There was an interesting article by Henri E. Cauvin in today's Washington Post that discussed juvenile defendant's lack of access to needed mental health services.

A study released by the District of Columbia Behavioral Health Association found that access to mental health services is not sufficient to meet the needs of juvenile defendants.

There has been more attention given to this issue lately because DC mayor, Adrian Fenty, fired the head of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) this past June for allegedly poor management of the agency. However, this is nation-wide issue and by no means a recent phenomenon.

In order to understand the importance of mental health services in the juvenile justice system, we need to examine the purpose of the system. Juvenile court is run very differently from adult criminal court. The hearings are restricted to essential personnel only, the defendant's names are not made public, and defendants are not found guilty and "convicted" of crimes. Instead they are found to be "delinquent." They are not sent to serve time in prison but rather placed in the custody of the DYRS. The point of these differences is that the juvenile justice system is designed to rehabilitate troubled youth and to do so in a manner that does not ruin any chance of them having a decent future.

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