A child under the age of 18 who commits a misdemeanor or felony in Rhode Island is typically charged as a juvenile defendant / respondent. Juvenile criminal cases are typically handled in the Rhode Island Family Court, although in the most serious cases, jurisdiction may be waived to the Rhode Island Superior Court. A youth may be charged as an adult depending on the seriousness of the crime or a juvenile's criminal background. If a case is waived to the RI Superior Court, the penalties are more severe.
Melissa has handled hundreds of juvenile criminal cases. At the Law Office of Melissa Larsen, Esq., we understand that more so than anyone, juveniles need a strong defense. Their entire futures are at risk, especially in terms of employment and education. If you are a parent whose child has been charged with a crime, contact Melissa today at 401-218-0862 to schedule a free initial consultation – keeping your child's record clean and making sure their futures are not at risk is imperative.
Common Juvenile Crimes in Rhode Island
Juvenile crimes are those committed by someone under the age of majority. Generally, juveniles can be charged with the same offenses as adults. Common offenses committed by juveniles include:
- Shoplifting or petty theft
- Violent crimes, such as assault
- Possession of drugs or alcohol
- Sexual offenses
- Domestic Assault
- Disorderly Conduct
- Possession of a stolen motor vehicle
- Driving a motor vehicle without consent of the owner
- Cyber crimes
The main difference between the juvenile and adult systems is the sentencing options available to the court. The juvenile justice system emphasizes rehabilitation. It offers alternative sentencing options such as counseling or education programs and sends defendants to a juvenile detention center (the Rhode Island Training School) rather than a jail or prison.
Juveniles Tried as Adults in Rhode Island
When a juvenile defendant commits a crime, they are usually then tried as a juvenile. In certain circumstances, however, their case can be transferred to the adult system.
The specific criteria for this vary between states. Relevant factors may include:
- The type and extent of the offense
- The seriousness of the allegations
- Any aggravating circumstances (for example, the use of a weapon)
- Whether the defendant understood the criminality of their conduct
- Whether the defendant is a repeat offender
The decision to transfer a juvenile case to the adult system can be made automatically as a result of the relevant legislation and upon motion of the prosecution and approval of a Justice of the Rhode Island Family Court. And once a juvenile defendant has been tried as an adult, any future charges will also be dealt with in the adult system.
When a juvenile case is dealt with in the adult system, the defendant is exposed to harsher penalties usually reserved for adults. It also excludes them from other sentencing options, such as counseling or education programs offered to juvenile offenders.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction in RI for a Juvenile Offense
In addition to the penalty imposed by a court, there can also be collateral consequences for defendants convicted of juvenile offenses.
A criminal conviction can disrupt a defendant's schooling, especially if they serve time at the Rhode Island Training School. A conviction can also affect their access to education more generally. Some schools may not accept students with a criminal record and many colleges ask applicants to disclose any juvenile convictions.
While it is generally correct that juvenile criminal records “disappear” once someone becomes an adult, the armed forces requires applicants to disclose any juvenile convictions. Law enforcement and courts may also access juvenile records when dealing with an adult offender, which can increase both the category of offense they are charged with and the severity of their sentence.
Convictions for certain offenses as a juvenile may also require a defendant to register as a sex offender or restrict them from owning a firearm well into adulthood.
Your Rights for Juvenile Arrests in Rhode Island
Both minors and their parents or legal guardians have rights when a minor is arrested in Rhode Island or is asked questions as a witness in a criminal matter. Parents and legal guardians also have rights. When a right is violated, this violation can be used as part of your defense strategy. This is in part why it is critical to speak to a juvenile criminal defense lawyer in RI, like Melissa Larsen, as soon as possible.
Your Child Has Rights
The U.S. Constitution as well as the Rhode Island Constitution outline certain rights for each person, whether a juvenile or an adult. These rights include but are not necessarily limited to:
- The right to be free from any unreasonable search and seizure
- The right against self-incrimination
- The right to refuse any questioning
- The right to an attorney during police questioning
Further, when a minor is detained or arrested, the police typically have an obligation to contact a parent or legal guardian, or at least make a reasonable attempt to do so.
Parents Have Rights
As a parent or legal guardian, you have rights in cases where your child has been arrested or detained by the police. Three such rights include:
- The right to be present with your child during questioning
- The right to know the reason your child was arrested or detained
- The right to have or retain an attorney for your child
As a parent or guardian, it is always in your child's best interest to remain calm. You can request to see your child at any time while the child is in police custody.
Contact Juvenile Defense Attorney Melissa Larsen, Esq. Today
Melissa knows that as a parent – and for that matter as a minor – you will have many questions and even more worries and fears during a criminal case. Melissa Larsen, Esq., is an effective juvenile defense lawyer who will sit down with you to explain everything you need to know and keep you informed during the process.
If your child is facing criminal charges as a juvenile, get expert legal advice to ensure they are treated fairly through the criminal system. Any mistakes could have long-lasting impacts on your child's life. Call or text 401-218-0862 to schedule a free initial consultation with juvenile defense attorney Melissa Larsen, Esq. today.