In Utah, a juvenile is a person under the age of 18. When a juvenile is charged with a crime, he or she can face very serious legal consequences, despite being a minor. Though Utah’s juvenile justice system is very different than the system for adult defendants, there are also situations where a teenager can be tried like an adult if he or she has been accused of certain crimes.
If your son or daughter was charged with a crime in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in Utah, he or she deserves the benefit of a vigorous defense. Salt Lake City juvenile defense lawyer Darwin Overson has more than 16 years of experience representing teenagers charged with misdemeanors and felonies, and will fight aggressively to protect your child’s rights. Call the law offices of Overson & Sheen at (801) 895-3143 for a free and confidential legal consultation.
Experienced Salt Lake City Juvenile Defense Lawyer
It’s emotionally draining to see your child, grandchild, or younger sibling be accused of committing a crime. Families are often distraught and confused, uncertain as to what they should do or expect in the weeks to come. We understand how frightening and stressful it can be for a young person to be accused of a criminal offense, and we will do everything in our power to aid and counsel your family with care and compassion. At Overson & Sheen, our focus is on developing a proactive, aggressive legal strategy that’s designed with your child’s best interests in mind. Whether the charges relate to a misdemeanor or felony, we put our combined decades of experience to work to uphold justice for all juvenile defendants.
Utah juvenile defense lawyer Darwin Overson handles criminal cases throughout the state, including but not limited to Box Elder County, Cache County, Davis County, Morgan County, Rich County, Salt Lake County, Summit County, Tooele County, Utah County, Wasatch County, and Weber County. He is available to make attorney visits to juvenile detention facilities throughout Utah. If your daughter or son was arrested in Utah, turn to criminal attorney Darwin Overson for immediate legal assistance.
What Are Some Common Crimes Teenagers Get Arrested For?
Minors tend to be charged with certain types of crimes, most of which are non-violent misdemeanors. Some common crimes juveniles are charged with in Utah include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Automotive Theft
- Curfew Violations
- Destruction of Property (Criminal Mischief)
- Driving without a License
- Drug Possession and Distribution
- DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
- Possession of Marijuana
- Public Intoxication
- Shoplifting (Retail Theft)
- Underage Drinking (Minor in Possession of Alcohol)
- Underage Smoking (Possession of Tobacco)
- Using Fake IDs
At the law offices of Overson & Sheen, we are eminently qualified to handle all types of criminal charges against juveniles. Unlike criminal attorneys who exclusively represent adult defendants, we are well-versed in the unique and nuanced laws that govern Utah’s juvenile justice system. We bring extensive knowledge of defense strategies and juvenile court procedures to each case we handle, and will fight for your child to receive alternative sentencing, such as placement in a treatment program, that emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment. It may even be possible to have the charges against your child dismissed altogether.
How Does Juvenile Court Work in Utah?
Most people are already aware that juvenile crimes are tried and punished under a different set of procedures than offenses committed by adults. However, they may not be familiar with the specific rules and stipulations the state of Utah observes when it comes to handling criminal charges against young people. If you are the parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, legal guardian, or older sibling of a teen who has been charged with a crime, it can be helpful for you to have an understanding of how Utah’s juvenile justice system works.
When a person under the age of 18 is charged with committing a crime in Utah, his or her case will go to juvenile court. Critically, Utah’s juvenile courts are civil, not criminal, as there is a greater focus on providing treatment and rehabilitation. Instead of sending a minor who is found guilty, or adjudicated delinquent, to jail or prison, judges typically impose penalties such as:
- Community Service
Like adults, juveniles are generally required to attend court hearings. However, in the interest of privacy and protection, juvenile hearings are typically closed to the public. Usually, the only attending individuals are the offender and his or her family members, as well as the intake officer.
An intake officer is a person who has been assigned to the juvenile case by the court. The intake officer’s role is to meet with the juvenile and their family members to decide what course of action is most appropriate at the outset of the case. If the juvenile does not admit guilt at this stage, the intake officer will then refer the case to the County Attorney’s office. At this stage, the County Attorney’s office will make one of three decisions:
- Continue with the case as it is.
- Continue with the case, but alter the charges, potentially to a lesser offense.
- Dismiss the case.
Juvenile hearings tend to be less formal than adult trials, though due process is still required. Like adults, juveniles have:
- The right to be notified of all charges against them.
- The right against self-incrimination, which is supplied by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- The right to be counseled and represented by a defense attorney.
What Happens When a Juvenile is Charged with a Felony in Utah?
Most juvenile cases involve relatively minor offenses, such as underage drinking. However, young people are sometimes accused of committing very serious crimes, including violent felonies. Some examples of felony offenses in Utah include:
- Aggravated Arson
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated Burglary
- Aggravated Kidnapping
- Aggravated Robbery
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Attempted Aggravated Murder
- Attempted Murder
- Felony Discharge of a Firearm
If a juvenile is charged with any of these offenses – or is charged with a felony-equivalent offense that involves a dangerous weapon, while having a record of prior offenses – he or she will be subject to Utah’s Serious Youth Offender Law (SYOL), found at Utah Code § 78A-6-702. Where SYOL crimes are concerned, juveniles may be tried in adult criminal court. That means they will be vulnerable to more severe penalties if found guilty.
When Can a Minor Be Tried as an Adult in Court?
In Utah, there are four scenarios in which a juvenile can be tried as an adult, which means the consequences may be much harsher if he or she is convicted. These scenarios are that:
- A juvenile as young as 14 years old may be tried in adult court if the prosecutor is able to persuade the judge that doing so serves the interests of justice.
- A 16-year-old or 17-year-old will automatically be tried in adult court if they are charged with murder.
- A 16-year-old or 17-year-old will automatically be tried in adult court if they have been previously been sentenced to a secure facility, which is the juvenile equivalent of jail or prison, and the new charge is a felony. It is fairly uncommon for judges to send juveniles to secure facilities, as this is “reserved for the most serious or chronic offenders that remain in the juvenile justice system.”
- A 16-year-old or 17-year-old who is charged with one of the SYOL felonies listed in the previous section, such as aggravated assault, will initially be tried in juvenile court, but will be charged as an adult. The case may then be remanded (sent) to adult court, unless the judge can be persuaded that keeping the case in juvenile court would best serve the interests of justice. This is one of the many reasons skillful representation is so critical.
Contact a Juvenile Crimes Attorney Representing Families in Utah
Juvenile crimes are not a trivial matter. They can have devastating immediate consequences, and, even more importantly, long-lasting negative impacts on the shape of a child’s entire life. Where felonies are involved, a prosecutor can even cause a teenager as young as 14 years old to be tried as an adult.
To protect your child’s future, you need compassionate, aggressive legal representation on your family’s side. To discuss your matter with an experienced juvenile crimes lawyer in a free legal consultation, call Overson & Sheen at (801) 895-3143 today.