Crimes committed by juveniles, defined by New Mexico law as those under 18 years of age, are prosecuted in the juvenile criminal courts. There are exceptions for very serious crimes which may be charged as serious youthful offender and brought in the adult courts.
Except in those rare occasions where a juvenile is charged as a youthful offender, all juvenile misdemeanor and felony criminal cases are brought in the juvenile court system. It is important to have a criminal attorney experienced in the defense of juvenile criminal matters.
Though juvenile courts have the same goals of punishment and community safety as do the adult criminal courts, there is a much greater emphasis on rehabilitation. New Mexico courts consider, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that children are more amenable to rehabilitation. As a result, the juvenile courts in New Mexico rely heavily on probation, treatment and counseling with the goal of rehabilitation and where necessary reintegration of the delinquent child into the child’s home and society.
As a result of the emphasis of the juvenile courts on rehabilitating of those juveniles facing criminal charges, there are numerous options and resources available to the juvenile and his or her family that are not as readily available to adult offenders. When faced with criminal charges, it is important to understand all of the resources available through the juvenile court system. These resources often dictate the outcome of the case, particularly in the area of sentencing.
If your child has been charged with a criminal offense, it is very important to contact a New Mexico Attorney experienced both in criminal defense and the juvenile courts. This is particularly important in juvenile cases as juveniles must have an attorney. If the child does not have an attorney, a public defender will be appointed. In the event that the child’s family does not qualify for the assistance of a public defender, the parents will be charged for the public defender’s services.