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Juvenile Crimes, Delinquency & Youthful Offender Proceedings: Prosecutors

If your child has been accused of a crime, you may worry that he or she will be prosecuted against by the same people who handle adults. Thankfully, the prosecution in most juvenile cases are done so by a completely different agency. If your child has been charged with a substance abuse crime, the prosecution will be a juvenile delinquency attorney instead of the District Attorney’s office. In New York, the Attorney General will occasionally step in depending on the severity of the crime, but you will often be up against the County Attorney instead. The county office handles municipal matters as well, such as housing offenses or traffic crimes.

Prosecutor’s Role

The role the prosecutor plays in a juvenile case is less serious than in an adult case. When an adult is charged with a crime, the New York Assistant District Attorney will review the case completely and decide what charges should be filed in court. They work with the police during the investigation and work to see if it would just be better to plead the case out, or if it is even strong enough to go to court.

However, the prosecution in juvenile crimes get the charges from the police. The prosecutor will only see the case if the police feel there is enough merit to go to court. Typically, it is a probation department that handles the screening of juvenile cases. This is because probation officers think differently than the Attorney General, which is necessary if it is believed the juvenile’s behavior can be corrected before adulthood. With that said, the prosecutor will still contact key witnesses, negotiate with the defense, file motions, and try the case in court if it gets that far. This is the same as adult crimes.

What is important, and why it is important for you to still obtain a defense attorney for your child, is that the prosecutor may still decide to resolve a case before the trial begins. Despite what the probation office desires, the prosecutor and your attorney can reach an agreement with a consequence to actions that satisfy the crime. The judge will still be reached to see the resolution that has been drawn up and must agree with it as well for a trial to be avoided. This is a desired resolution for many because it ensures a fair ending for the juvenile and saves time for cases that need tried.

Going to Court

While every attempt will be made to settle the case out of court, some cases will need to be tried. The prosecution will use juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor, rather than work for a harsh jail sentence. They will look for community service, counseling programs available, and diversion to prevent the crime from happening again. While they still have the right to a trial, you will not have the right to request a jury of your peers. The judge will hear the evidence in a hearing with the prosecutor, your defense attorney, and you and will decide on appropriate consequences if an agreement has not been reached. They are an informal court, which is why some juveniles will need to be charged as adults if the crime is severe.

Your Rights

While the case is tried differently, the prosecutor must still offer a few rights to you and your defense attorney. You have the right to cross-examine and receive evidence against you. The prosecutor needs to make sure they have enough to prove you are guilty of a crime, beyond all reasonable doubt. Just because the prosecutor is more lenient in juvenile cases than in adult cases, does not mean you should rely on them to have your best interest in mind. Most juvenile cases are sealed after the age of 18, however, it is possible that the child’s entire future can be damaged due to a crime. It is your responsibility and duty to make sure you are defended adequately.

With everything stated, it is important to know that juvenile cases are tried very differently in the state of New York because the state wants to see a person succeed. The delinquency and probation offices work to keep a child’s future in mind when determining how to close a case, but still satisfy the offended parties.

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