Options for juvenile offenders fall into one of 2 categories: Informal and Formal Proceedings. For more information, contact the Juvenile Probation Department at phone 972-204-7450.
This probation is a 3 to 6 month period of voluntary probation that is entered into by the child and his/her parents. If the child violates the terms of the probation, the State may elect to proceed with formal court adjudication. The juvenile prosecutor must consent to any deferred prosecution disposition for any child alleged to have committed a felony offense, misdemeanor, or weapons or assault referral.
First Offenders Program
This disposition consists of a 6-week educational course that the juvenile and parent / guardian must complete. Additional counseling services are available if needed. This disposition is typically reserved for first time offenders committing minor offenses.
A disposition where the Probation Department refers the child and family to needed social services in the community. This disposition is typically reserved for first time offenders committing very minor offenses.
The majority of juvenile cases are handled using a delinquency petition. If a child is found by a judge or jury to have engaged in delinquent conduct, the juvenile court has several dispositional powers that include:
Certification as an Adult
For many serious or chronic felony offenders, certification as an adult may be the most appropriate option. If a child is certified to stand trial as an adult, the child faces the same range of punishment that an adult would face for the same crime, except that a juvenile cannot receive the death penalty for an offense committed before turning 17 years of age.
A child who was 14 at the time of the commission of the offense may be certified for the following serious offenses: capital felonies, aggravated controlled substance felonies, or first degree felonies. For all other felonies, the child must have been 15 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense.
Court Ordered Probation
A child may be placed on probation for any term not to exceed the child's 18th birthday. The court may, before the probationary period ends, extend the probation until the child's 18th birthday. The Family Code provides that the court may choose from 3 types of probation placements: child's own home or in the custody of a relative or other fit person, in a suitable foster home, or in a suitable public or private institution or agency.
A child may be committed to the care, control, and custody of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) if the child is adjudicated for a felony offense. All commitments to the TJJD, except under the determinate sentencing act, are for an indeterminate term not to exceed the child's 19th birthday.
TJJD Determinate Sentencing
If a prosecutor chooses to invoke the option of determinate sentencing, the grand jury must approve the petition charging the juvenile with the offense. If the court or jury finds at the conclusion of an adjudication hearing that the child committed one of the specified offenses, the child may be committed to the TJJD with a possible transfer to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for up to 40 years, depending on the offense.