In the state of New York, it’s common for people to mix up juvenile delinquency cases with family offenses cases. Family offenses and juvenile delinquency are considered very different areas of the law in practice, but they are both types of law that are about halfway between civil litigation and criminal prosecution. Because of this, there tends to be a good deal of overlap between juvenile delinquency cases and family offense petitions. If you need to know more about the differences and what they mean for you, you should talk to your juvenile criminal defense attorney or family court lawyer. The laws about juvenile delinquency and family offenses apply to all areas of New York, from the heart of New York City to the more wild upstate rural areas.
Family Offense Petitions
A Family Offense case is similar to a Juvenile Delinquency case in that it will be heard in New York’s family court. One of the biggest fundamental differences between these two types of cases, though, is that Family Offense charges can be brought against individuals of any age. In addition, the one doing the accusing tends to be another private citizen or other individual, instead of the accused being tried by a government agency.
Family Offense petitions are created by family members of the accused party, or people who have a similar closeness to family members. An example would be a roommate or a very close friend you partially cohabitate with. A Family Offense petition must outline the means by which the accused has committed at least one of the specific crimes outlined in Section 812 of the Family Court Act. If the person has committed more than one of these infractions, the petition can detail all of them.
Most Family Offense petitions will be resolved by having a judge issue an official Order of Protection, more commonly known as a restraining order. This is a legal order that bars the accused individual from coming near the accusing party. The exact stipulations of each order of protection will vary depending on the circumstances of the case. Some orders of protection may keep a person away from multiple family members, while others may require that they only stay away from the specific individual accuser.
A Family Offense petition can be filed if a person commits a number of different crimes, many of which are also outlined in New York’s criminal law:
- Second and third degree assault
- Second and third degree menacing
- Aggravated harassment in the second degree
- Any criminal mischief
- Criminal obstruction of the blood circulation or breathing
- First and second degree harassment
- Second degree reckless endangerment
- First and second degree strangulation
- Disorderly conduct
A Family Offense petition blends civil and criminal law. Though the person will be accused of a crime, the procedure has a much faster resolution. It’s a measure that’s good for individuals who want to protect themselves and separate themselves from a family member following an altercation, but who also don’t want the overwhelming upset that comes with pressing charges.
Juvenile Delinquency Cases
Aside from the fact that they’re also heard in Family Court in the state of New York, Juvenile Delinquency cases are very different from Family Offense petitions. The manner in which the cases are heard, the potential resolutions, and the people being tried are all different.
Juvenile delinquency cases occur when law enforcement or the government levels a criminal accusation against a child under the age of sixteen. The cases might be regarding a non-criminal violation like harassment or a criminal act. There are attorneys who specialize in criminal defense for juvenile defendants. This highly specialized area of study isn’t the same as Family Offense petitions, which are an entirely different branch of law. If you’re dealing with a juvenile delinquency or family offense case, you can talk to your attorney about the nuances and differences between the two procedures.
Regardless of the accusation, a juvenile defense attorney is sworn to represent the best interests of the child. In juvenile court, this often means getting the child in touch with mental health resources, volunteer work, hobbies, and a path to recovery. Juvenile court cases generally aim not to punish the child, but instead to create a path through which the child can have a more stable sense of self and future.
To that end, it’s important for the defense attorney to know everything about the situation. That includes the alleged crime, anything the child knows about it, and – if they committed it – why they did it. From there, the attorney can evaluate the situation and come up with a plan to help the child take responsibility and move forward.
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