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When an adult violates a criminal statute or commits a criminal traffic offense, he or she is charged with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the offense. The penalties for a conviction are defined in statutes, and usually include jail time and fines, or one or the other.

When a juvenile commits acts that violate a law, instead of being charged with a crime, typically what happens is that a petition for delinquency is filed. The delinquency process in many ways functions similarly to the adult criminal process. The juvenile goes through a process of either admitting or denying the offense, and there is a phase in which evidence and testimony is presented to determine if the state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged act occurred.

The juvenile has the same kinds of rights as an adult criminal defendant going through a trial, including the right to an attorney. If the juvenile admits to the offense or is found to have committed the offense, then the court moves toward a disposition of the case, which is similar to a sentencing.

However, it’s in the disposition where the juvenile justice process differs from the adult criminal justice system, largely because the juvenile system is designed with different goals. Juvenile justice is intended to rehabilitate a juvenile in recognition that juveniles lack the same maturity as adults, and should be allowed the chance to learn from their mistakes and grow into responsible adults. Judges in the juvenile system have more discretion than their counterparts in adult criminal courts, and there are many more opportunities for alternatives and diversion programs for juveniles who commit offenses.

However, when offenses are very serious, juveniles still may face potentially harsh penalties — and in some instances may be tried and sentenced as adults.

Common Offenses Resulting in Indiana Delinquency Proceedings

One of the common ways that juveniles end up facing delinquency proceedings is when they are suspected of committing offenses that would be crimes if committed by adults. When a juvenile commits acts that violate a criminal statute or commits a criminal traffic offense, that may lead to delinquency proceedings. Any acts that would be an adult criminal offense could trigger a delinquency petition, but some of the most common ones seen in juvenile courts include:

  • DUI — This involves driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Theft Offenses — This involves stealing money or property from another person or business without the owner’s consent, such as shoplifting from a convenience store
  • Drug Offenses — This involves possession, use, delivery, or sale of marijuana, meth, heroine or other drugs
  • Battery — This involves using force against another person, such as hitting or shoving a fellow student or a teacher at school
  • Arson — This involves setting fire to someone else’s property
  • Vandalism — This involves destroying property, such as smashing windows or scrawling graffiti on the side of a building
  • Disorderly Conduct — This can include fighting, disturbing other people with loud noise even after being asked to stop, or disrupting an official meeting

Potential Penalties for Juvenile Criminal Offenses in Indiana

Possible outcomes for offenses that would be crimes if committed by adults may include, but are not limited to:

  • Probation
  • Detention in a juvenile corrections facility
  • Requirement to undergo mental health or substance abuse treatment
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Payment of restitution
  • Partial or complete emancipation of the juvenile
  • Community service
  • Placement in a foster home or group home

The potential of these outcomes can be frightening both for a juvenile and for a parent or guardian. The goal of any outcome should be to protect the best interests of juvenile while also balancing the interests and safety of the public and society. It’s important for the juvenile to have a skilled and compassionate Indianapolis juvenile defense lawyer through the process to ensure that his or her interests are represented and that a strong voice is speaking on his or her behalf.

Status Offenses in Indiana

Status offenses are offenses that can only be committed by juveniles. They’re generally not crimes, but can lead to delinquency proceedings. Some common types of status offenses include:

  • Skipping school without authorization, also known as truancy
  • Running away from home
  • Being incorrigible or unruly
  • Underage drinking

Possible outcomes and consequences when a juvenile is found to be delinquent based on a status offense may include, but are not limited to:

  • Probation
  • Psychological or substance abuse treatment
  • Placement in a foster home or group home
  • Partial or complete emancipation of the juvenile
  • Participation in family services for the juvenile and parents
  • Loss of driving privileges

In Indiana, a juvenile cannot be ordered into a locked facility for a status offense, and the juvenile can’t be placed in another home outside of his or her home county unless no other placement is available.

How Our Juvenile Defense Attorneys Can Help

Juveniles who encounter the system often are anxious, scared, and distrustful of the process. They often believe that no one will listen to them or hear their side of the story. A good Indianapolis juvenile defense lawyer can be an incredibly important advocate on behalf of a juvenile to make sure that the juvenile does have a voice and that what he or she wants and needs is heard as part of the process.

At Hessler Law, we’re committed to making sure that juveniles facing delinquency proceedings in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas get the same due process as any adult would expect in a courtroom, and that juveniles’ rights — and futures — are protected. When we represent a juvenile, we look out for the juvenile’s best interests and fight to make sure the juvenile gets the best possible outcome that allows the juvenile to move past youthful mistakes and build a productive life going into adulthood.

Important Things to Know About the Indiana Juvenile Justice System

The juvenile justice system in Indiana is complex, and can seem mystifying to people who don’t encounter it every day. If you are the parent or guardian of a juvenile who is facing delinquency proceedings, you likely have countless questions about how the process will work and what might happen to your child or teenager. Answers to some of your questions may be found on the following pages, but we also invite you to call one of our Marion County criminal lawyers for a consultation about your juvenile’s case so that we can address any specific questions about your situation.

  • Indiana Juvenile Justice Process — Information about how the delinquency process works, the courts where juvenile cases are heard, and the steps along the way from delinquency petition to final disposition
  • Your Rights and Your Child’s Rights — An explanation of what rights your juvenile has through the process, and your rights as a parent or guardian
  • Underage Drinking Charges — If you’ve been charged with an underage drinking offense, there may be ways to fight the charge and get it dismissed or reduced.

This website is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship.