Juvenile Cases in Alabama
Juvenile practice is totally unlike any other area of law. This great divide in theory and law from other types of cases comes from the State of Alabama’s interest in protecting juveniles from themselves and from others.
Often times the interests of the State of Alabama may not be the best outcome for the child. In juvenile delinquency cases, there is no right to a jury trial and minor’s rights as criminal defendants are trampled upon regularly. In juvenile dependency cases (DHR cases), social workers are expected to make recommendations on hundreds of cases based on a few minutes’ worth of time with each child and their families.
Family courts have exclusive jurisdiction of juvenile court proceedings in which a child is alleged to have committed a delinquent act, to be dependent, or to be in need of supervision. If a child is alleged to be “dependent” or in need of supervision, the state steps in and investigates, and may remove the child from the home temporarily or permanently. This usually happens after allegations of abuse or neglect by a guardian.
If a child is alleged to have committed a crime (“delinquency”), they are detained, at least temporarily, until a court decides if their parent can care for them while their juvenile criminal case in pending in a family court. During that process, the child can plead “true” or “not true,” much like “guilty” or “not guilty.” If the child pleads true or is found true (that the child committed the crime), a juvenile court decides on punishment – anything from after school care, counseling, youth programs – to detention in a Department of Youth Services detention center until the child is 21 years old.
Judges exclusively make the decision of what will happen to each child’s case. Those judges’ decisions are sometimes based on information gained from social workers and probation officers.
Retaining an experienced and skilled family law attorney is crucial in attaining the best outcome for your child’s case.
More information from Alabama Law may be found at the Alabama Code Juvenile Abuse and Neglect.