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What parents must know about Missouri’s juvenile crime system

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Juvenile cases require a special approach because they can be too terrifying to young minds. Often, they get in trouble with the law because their developing comprehension cannot yet grasp the severe consequences of their actions. In some cases, they may even feel the only key to fitting in is giving in to peer pressure leading them to commit illegal acts.

As their parent, they look up to you for direction and comfort. Educating yourself about what the crucial next steps will be can ensure that your child gets their best chances at a crime-free future.

Juvenile justice procedures

First, you must determine if Missouri courts consider your child as a juvenile. A bill passed in 2018, eventually taking effect in 2021, raised the age of criminal responsibility. Any 17-year-old taken into custody is now automatically a juvenile. Although critics argue this development overwhelms the state’s juvenile detention centers, the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association contends that this system only aims to provide a rehabilitative future to the youth.

There have been substantial changes in the Missouri Juvenile Court procedures in recent years, formalizing the rights of your child, the victim and the general public. Thus, the due process includes the following:

  • Entitlement of your child to legal representation
  • Proper notification of charges
  • Discovery of evidence
  • Proof beyond a reasonable doubt
  • Inclusion of families from apprehension through the rehabilitation process

Upon apprehension, the arresting officer must immediately alert the family court with the corresponding circumstances of your child’s case. The court can issue a 24-hour temporary protective custody order if your child is in imminent danger or suffering from severe physical harm.

Within 12 hours, you or any other guardian must immediately receive a written notification with details of the incident. The court then proceeds with a preliminary examination of reasons for detention to determine if they can release your child or hold them until the detention hearing, which is usually within three days from the initial arrest.

The hearing must establish the appropriateness of placing your child in a juvenile detention facility. If they end up in detention, they have telephone and visitation rights. No one may interview or interrogate them without the presence of their legal counsel. Also, your child’s records, which include fingerprints and photographs, are not accessible to uphold confidentiality unless by court order, if they committed a grave felony, or if they have been under adult court certification or prosecution.

Further, through the 1992 Missouri Constitution Amendment, the victim or the victim’s immediate family members may attend your child’s hearings. The victim may appear personally, submit a written statement or speak through their counsel if unable to make a statement due to the criminal offense.

Advocate for your child’s future

Undoubtedly, these are scary times. But you must hold the fort, forge on, and fight for your child’s rights and future. It will help ease your burdens to have a legal defense team guiding you in confronting the charges for your child’s protection.