Having your child charged with a crime is extremely upsetting and hugely stressful for most parents. If your child has been charged, you will likely have many questions about the juvenile criminal process.
The juvenile courts run a little bit differently than the adult criminal courts. Because of this, it is important to work with an attorney experienced in juvenile criminal court matters.
What’s different about the juvenile courts? There are many things that are different in the juvenile setting. First, and most beneficial to juveniles and their parents, the juvenile courts in New Mexico are concerned principally with rehabilitation, not punishment. In fact, the juvenile proceeding itself begins with a Petition alleging delinquency rather than a criminal complaint.
Don’t misunderstand, the Petition may allege very serious violations of criminal statutes. But the goal is rehabilitation not simply conviction, incarceration or punishment. As such, there are many opportunities to deal with the charges in ways that are not necessarily available in the adult setting.
You should understand also that some courts and prosecutors are more willing than others to work with the juvenile toward these possible less adverse outcomes.
In very minor cases, the case may be resolved at the preliminary inquiry on an informal basis. If this is not possible for one reason or another, there may be an opportunity to suspend the proceedings with a time waiver. This is more formal than the preliminary inquiry but it is an early exit from the criminal process with no conviction.
Even if these two are not possible, there may still be an opportunity to avoid conviction with a consent decree. Each of these possibilities comes with varying degrees of supervision of the child by the state. The outcome will also dictate the level of formality of this supervision.
Questions will likely arise as to possible supervisory periods as well as the conditions of the supervision for each of these outcomes. In case these outcomes are not available, the same type questions about probation time periods and conditions will arise.
Perhaps the ultimate question is how long can my child be placed in custody of the state (i.e. jail by another name). The simple answer is any violation under the children’s code carries up to 2 years of custody. The same two years applies to probation.
However, the question is more complicated than that because the state can actually hold a “delinquent” child until they reach the age of 18. This means that custody and/or probation can be extended until the child turns 18.
Repeated extensions of the probationary period and extensions of time in custody or some combination of both are not uncommon. This can come up as a result of subsequent criminal offenses, some serious and some not so serious. It can result from failure to abide by technical terms of probation such as curfew. It can result because the parents are not properly supervising the child.
However, the most common basis for extension is the use of drugs and/or alcohol. Some might be surprised that the most common culprit is marijuana. And despite what the recent developments regarding marijuana legalization might suggest, use of marijuana while on probation is taken very seriously by the courts, prosecutors and probation officers.
The above is really just a broad survey of the issues. You will likely have many more questions. In fact, each answer may raise as many questions as it answers. We will try to add useful FAQ’s over time that will help you understanding the process. Hopefully, this will also lessen the stress at least a little to you, your child and your family.
However, keep in mind that this is meant only as a general overview. There is no substitute for the guidance of an attorney.