The arrest of a minor can be traumatic for the child and a shock for the parent. Processing so many emotions and so much information quickly can be overwhelming.
Because Ohio’s juvenile justice system likes to move quickly, contacting counsel promptly will be important for both legal help and perspective.
Here are a few tips and clues about features of the juvenile justice system that are likely to matter to you early in the process.
Minors have a right to remain silent
Children don’t have to answer police questions without an attorney.
But police don’t often recite Miranda warnings until an actual arrest. By then, a minor may have already said a lot.
Judges are often cautious about admitting statements made by minors who are often less familiar with their rights and more easily intimidated by police and unfamiliar situations.
Justice with specials goals and language
There’s sometimes controversy about whether juvenile courts live up to their mission statements.
Ohio’s statement aims to provide for the care, protection and development of children with a program of rehabilitation in a family environment.
Juvenile systems in the US vow to focus on turning young offenders into productive adults. They're not supposed to be all about punishment.
Instead of a jury, only judges decide juvenile cases. Instead of trials deciding verdicts for crimes, adjudications decide dispositions for delinquent acts.
And sometimes the crimes can be different from those faced by adults, such as truancy, drinking alcohol or violating curfew.
When you turn 18, you’re an adult
In Ohio’s system, a child is anyone 17 years old or younger. There are some twists, however.
If a complaint is filed for a crime by a minor, it stays in juvenile court even if the offender is no longer a minor when the complaint is filed.
Also, if you enter the juvenile system under 18, you are treated as a minor in that system until you turn 21.
Nonetheless, minors accused of very serious misdeeds are sometimes tried as adults.
The records of juvenile offenders are sealed to prevent damage to their adult lives. At 18, if they’ve satisfied the court’s conditions, their records are expunged (erased). They then get a fresh start with a clean record.