A Juvenile in Tennessee, by definition, is an individual under the age of 18 years old who has not been otherwise emancipated. While the same body of law generally applies to those under the age of 18, the methods used in dealing with the juvenile are very different. Juveniles also have a completely different set of issues when it comes to areas such as truancy, unruly behavior, runaways, and other so called status offenses (they are only offenses because the individual is underage).
Unlike the adult criminal court system, the juvenile court is a civil court. The goal is not simply punishment but rather protecting the community while rehabilitating the youthful offender.
Truancy (age 13 and over) and Educational Neglect (under age 13) are issues handled by the Juvenile Court as are unruly children (the parents/guardians feel the child's behavior has become unmanageable), delinquency and runaways. Underaged drinking, smoking and certain other activity that would be lawful for an adult but is illegal due to the individual's age are also status offenses.
The Need for Representation
While the some of the offenses described may seem minor, there are still serious consequences to being involved with the juvenile court system. This is especially true for the more serious activities that have the potential for being moved to the adult court system and hence subject to adult penalties.
We feel that for all but the most serious offenses, the best defense is a great offense. Involving an attorney as early as possible allows all interested parties to work on putting together a plan that deals with the behavior in a constructive manner before the matter goes to court. The courts are often very responsive when they learn the parents and/or other involved adults have intervened, developed punishment and restrictions to prevent reoccurrence and involved the child in appropriate programs and/or counseling to help them learn to make better decisions in the future. By starting this process as early as possible, there is a good chance to not only rehabilitate the child prior to the child's case being heard by the court but to also show areas of improvement whether it is school attendance, improved grades, avoidance of additional legal problems and/or a history of negative drug/alcohol screens. By getting an attorney involved early - this plan can be formulated, executed and presented to the court in an effort to show that what needed to be done has already happened and possibly avoiding or at least decreasing the ongoing involvement of the courts.
Notice to Immigrants
Immigrants: Never plead guilty to a criminal charge without consulting an attorney. Doing so will have serious consequences on your immigration status. Call our office at 615.953.9070 for an evaluation of your case if you have been charged with any crime.