What is a Time Waiver in a Juvenile Criminal Proceeding?

A time waiver is a fairly common outcome in juvenile criminal proceedings.  However, it is typically only available for first time offenders and for non-violent and non-felony charges.

Having said that, what is a time waiver if your child is lucky enough to get one?  Basically, a time waiver suspends the criminal proceedings for a certain period of time.  The time period is generally 6 months but can on occasion be as little as 3 months or as long as one year.  In certain cases, the time waiver can be extended.  However, this is pretty rare which will be explained below.

So why would suspending the proceedings be helpful and why would it be necessary?  Again, time waivers are generally given only to first time juvenile offenders and they are generally given only for non-violent misdemeanor charges.  So why doesn’t the district attorney just dismiss the case?  Because the prosecutor wants to maintain jurisdiction (i.e. control) over the child for the time period in question for supervision purposes.

This probably raises further questions.  Perhaps a discussion of the speedy trial rule will help.  Under the 6th Amendment, all defendants charged with a crime have a right to a speedy trial.  In New Mexico, the length of time allowed depends on the seriousness of the charges.  In misdemeanor criminal proceedings, the speedy trial rule is construed to be 6 months or more precisely 182 days.  This same time period is typically used for juvenile cases.

This means that if the case is not taken to trial within 182 days of the arraignment, the case will be dismissed on speedy trial grounds.  This is the reason most time waivers are 6 months.  The time waiver suspends the proceedings.  The “waiver” aspect is a waiver of the right to a speedy trial for the period stated in the time waiver.  This means that the speedy trial rule will not begin to run until and unless the time waiver is violated.  If the time waiver is not violated, then the case is generally dismissed at the end of the stated period.  If it is violated, the case begins to run again as normal.

This gets back to a couple of issues above.  First, the time waiver allows the state to maintain jurisdiction over the child while monitoring the child’s progress on whatever terms are stated in the time waiver (i.e. no more violations of law, no drugs or alcohol and any other term the prosecutor deems necessary).  Second, if the child is not complying, the time waiver will typically be revoked and the case will proceed as any other juvenile criminal matter.  In some cases of minor misconduct or violations of the time waiver, some but not all prosecutors, may simply agree to extend the time waiver rather than revoking it.

An extension of the time waiver basically gives the child a second chance.  This is pretty rare.  It is much more common for the prosecutor to just revoke the time waiver and reinstate the case.   As such, it is extremely important to comply with the conditions.

A time waiver is not a right.  Some prosecutors and some offices are more likely to give a time waiver than others.  If your child gets a time waiver, it can save the child from conviction, probation, court hearings, and so on.  As a rule, it is a gift and should be treated as such.