Juvenile Criminal Justice System Explained By Nevada Defense Lawyer

In Nevada, the juvenile court has jurisdiction over most people under age 18 who are accused of committing a crime.  The juvenile courts also have jurisdiction over cases involving people 21 and under for unlawful acts the individual committed before his 18th birthday, as well as jurisdiction over individuals considered juvenile sex offenders.

If you or your child has been accused of breaking the law, you need to take the accusations seriously.  Juvenile courts have the authority to impose real and life-changing consequences on a young person.  Teens who commit criminal offenses could also found themselves subject to the jurisdiction of adult courts under certain circumstances.

LV Criminal Defense provides criminal defense services to minors who have been accused of criminal acts. Give us a call as soon as possible after wrongdoing is alleged or an investigation is begun so we can help you deal with the juvenile justice process.

The Nevada Juvenile Justice System

The Nevada Supreme Court has held that traditional statutory and criminal procedural rules applicable in adult court do not apply to juvenile court proceedings.  Juvenile courts do not have jury trials, and matters handled before the juvenile court are not considered “criminal” in nature.

Children under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court must receive care and guidance in their own home when possible, and the state legislature declared in 2003 that one of the goals of the juvenile justice system is to promote programs aimed at helping prevent children from becoming subject to the court’s jurisdiction. Nevada is also part of the Interstate Compact for Juveniles, which promotes cooperation among participating states when a juvenile offender has left the state of residence.

While the state legislature believes juvenile courts should not be punitive but should aim to provide rehabilitation and positive intervention to prevent future criminal acts, this does not mean there are no consequences for juveniles found to have committed criminal acts. Children may be put into juvenile detention facilities, and a child’s future may be affected by being found guilty of an offense in juvenile court even if his record is technically sealed.

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Nick Wooldridge has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in Nevada.


Children May be Tried as Adults for Nevada Juvenile Crimes 

 Children are routinely tried as adults for serious crimes, instead of facing their charges in the juvenile justice system. For example:

  • A child age 13 and up can be tried as an adult for murder or attempted murder.
  • A child age 14 and up can be tried as an adult for most felony offenses.
  • A juvenile court has no jurisdiction over murder or attempted murder cases once a child is 16 and up. The case must be transferred to adult court.
  • A sexual assault or attempted sexual assault case must be heard in adult court if the defendant is 16 or older and the defendant was previously adjudicated for an offense that would be considered a felony for adult.

These are just a few of many examples of situations where serious crimes result in adult criminal charges for youth offenders.  In some situations, the move to adult court will happen only after the prosecutor submits a motion to the court and the court conducts an investigation and hearing before certifying the child to be tried as an adult. For example, the prosecutor has to request that a 13 or 14 year old be tried as an adult for murder, or that a 16 year old with a prior conviction who has committed a gun crime or a sex offense should be tried as an adult.

For many serious offenses, like sexual assault, category A or B felonies, or offenses involving the use of a firmarm, certification is presumptive.  It is presumed the court will certify the child to be tried as an adult after the prosecutor makes the motion to the court.  For crimes like murder, attempted murder, or felonies on school property resulting in death or serious harm, the juvenile court no longer gets to weigh in on the case once the defendant is 16. These kinds of cases must be heard in adult court.

Even for more minor crimes, the district attorney has discretion to file a motion requesting certification for the child to be tried in adult court. The juvenile court may transfer other cases after a hearing, but there is no presumptive certification for more minor criminal offenses.

Consequences of Juvenile Crimes

 A juvenile offender tried as an adult will be subject to the same criminal process as an adult and will be sent to adult prison if convicted. Penalties are no more lenient for a child than they would be for any other person being tried in adult court.   The specific consequences of conviction will vary depending upon the nature of the offense.

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Address: 400 S, 7th Street #401, Las Vegas, NV 89101 United States, 400 S, 7th Street #401, 89101, US, $$$ | Tel: + 1 (702) 623-6362

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When I initially met with Mr. Wooldridge, he took the opportunity to sit and go over my problem with me. He described details in my case which he found disturbing and explained why he I should have him on my side.

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A minor going through the juvenile court system has a different process. Typically, involvement with the juvenile justice system begins when a law enforcement or probation officer takes the child into custody for violation of the law, violating probation, or if the officer believes the child is in need of supervision. The parent or guardian is notified and the child will usually be released to the custody of the parent as long as the parent agrees to bring the child back to court.  If the crime was a serious one, the child may be taken immediately to juvenile court and the court may order the child be detained, or conditionally released for supervised detention in his or her home.

A hearing will subsequently be held to determine if the child broke the law and what the consequences will be.  Possible consequences for a minor upon being found to have violated the law include:

  • Being sent to their home, or to another home, under the custody and supervision of a suitable person.
  • Being committed to the custody of a licensed public or private institution.
  • Being permitted to live in a residence without adult supervision under the strict supervision of the court, if the child is at least 16 and would benefit from the arrangement.
  • Court-ordered community service for the child, or parent, or both.
  • Being ordered to complete a specific program, such as a fitness or arts program.
  • Having a driver’s license suspended for at least 90 days.
  • Financial fines.
  • Required medical or psychological care or referral to counseling.
  • Required drug and alcohol abuse counseling or treatment
  • Commitment to a detention facility (if age 12 or older)
  • Commitment to the custody of the Division of Child and Family Services for placement in a suitable facility.

Children are often asked on college and employment applications if they have ever been convicted of an offense.  Conviction can have consequences, even if a child is not ordered to be detained.

Getting Help from a Nevada Juvenile Crime Lawyer

A Nevada juvenile crime lawyer at LV Criminal Defense can provide assistance in fighting to keep a case in juvenile court, representing a minor being tried as an adult, or representing a minor within the juvenile court system.  Call as soon as your child is arrested for help protecting his future.