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Newport RI Criminal Defense Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.

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Newport RI Juvenile Defense Attorney

If your child is in criminal trouble, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the juvenile justice process. It’s best to hire a lawyer to represent your child as soon as possible after you learn of the problem. Remember, however, that the attorney represents the child and not the parent.

What Are Some Juvenile Offenses?

Crimes that are most often committed by juveniles.

  1. Theft or Larceny– These cases include shoplifting, stealing from backpacks and lockers, and stealing personal property.
  2. Vandalism– Vandalism includes graffiti and tagging on public property, drawing on restroom walls, or keying a vehicle.
  3. Alcohol Offenses– Offenses committed while under the influence of alcohol are an underage purchase, underage possession, open container offenses, DUI’s, and providing alcohol to minors.
  4. Disorderly Conduct– These charges include cursing at a teacher or authority figure, fighting in public, or any indecent exposure.
  5.  Simple Assault or Battery– These charges are for hitting or shoving someone, physical altercations between parents and children, and bullying that results in an assault.
  6. Possession of Marijuana– In 2013, Rhode Island became the 14th state to decriminalize marijuana, making possession of less than an ounce punishable by a $150 fine.
  7. Tobacco Offenses– These include purchasing tobacco by a minor, chewing or smoking at school, or providing minors with smoking materials.
  8. Curfew Violations– These are violations of a park curfew, sneaking out of the house after midnight, or walking home after curfew.
  9. School Disciplinary Offenses– These include cheating, food fights, disrupting class, as well as violating the dress code.
  10. Traffic Violations– Offenses committed behind the wheel include everything from speeding to riding in the back of a pick-up truck.

Arrest and Booking

If your child is taken into custody, he or she will likely be booked at the police station. Booking involves logging in his or her name and the reason for the arrest in police records. Your child’s photo will be taken and he or she will be fingerprinted.

Police Questioning

Statements made to law enforcement personnel during questioning can be held against your child. Your child has the right to tell police he or she doesn’t wish to speak with them. As a parent, you may also tell the police your child doesn’t want to talk with them until you can find a juvenile attorney to represent your child during questioning.

Police Custody and Detention

Your child may be released into your custody pending a hearing, or detained in a juvenile facility for a short period of time. Federal regulations prohibit holding juveniles in adult jail settings. Under federal standards, a child cannot be detained for longer than six hours in an adult jail setting, and must be kept in an area that is out of sight and sound of adult inmates. Your child cannot be held very long in a juvenile detention facility without a detention hearing. The judge will review your child’s case and decide whether your child should continue in juvenile detention.


Your child may be “diverted” into community rehabilitation programs or sent to counseling or social services organizations, without having to enter the juvenile justice system. In some communities, juvenile offenders are sent to a “youth accountability board,” sometimes called a “community accountability board,” where community residents decide how the child can best be rehabilitated.

The Juvenile Justice Process

Each state’s juvenile case processing is different, but generally you can expect the following:

  • Intake. The prosecutor’s office or juvenile probation department will decide whether to dismiss or divert the case or request formal intervention by the juvenile court.
  • Consent Decree. If the case is to be dismissed, your child may have to agree to conditions such as curfews, victim restitution and counseling, written into a formal court agreement called a “consent decree.” Usually, your child will have to admit to doing the offending act in order to be eligible for a consent decree disposition. Your child will then likely be monitored for a period of time by a probation officer.
  • Fitness Hearing. The juvenile court judge will decide whether your child is fit to be tried, and whether the case should be held in juvenile court or adult criminal court. In many states, prosecutors are required to file serious juvenile cases such as murder and other felonies in criminal court. Prosecutors may also request a transfer to adult criminal court where your child has been in juvenile court previously and intervention or diversion efforts haven’t worked.
  • Adjudicatory Hearing. This is a trial at which witnesses are called and lawyers argue both sides of the case. In most states, the hearing is in front of a judge rather than a jury.
  • Disposition Plan. If your child is found delinquent (guilty) at the end of the adjudicatory hearing, probation officers will investigate your child, often ordering psychological exams and diagnostic testing. Probation officers will present detailed recommendations to the judge.
  • Disposition Hearing. The judge decides whether your child should be required to undergo drug counseling, confinement in juvenile detention, reimburse the victim (called restitution) or be on probation for a length of time.
  • Probation Review Hearings. Probation officers will monitor your child’s progress and report any probation violations to the judge.
  • Case Termination. After your child has successfully completed all the requirements of probation, the judge will dismiss the case.

What Is the Process for Taking a Juvenile Into Custody?

When police take a juvenile into custody is the process any different from when they arrest an adult? According to the State of Rhode Island Juvenile Standards, a youth has the same rights guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution as an adult.

The arresting officer must have probable cause to arrest the youth. They also must bring them to a secure detention facility that is entirely separate from any adults for no more than 6 hours before taking them to the Rhode Island Training School facility.

Also, officers must make every reasonable effort to contact the juvenile’s parents. They must inform the youth of their Miranda Rights upon arrest. When charging minors, there are several categories of juvenile offenders.


This term applies to any person under the age of 18 who has committed an offense considered a felony if committed by an adult.


Wayward juveniles are runaways, in violation of curfew, truant from school, or disobedient and out of control. There are two classifications. A Misdemeanor Offender is a juvenile that has committed an act considered a misdemeanor if committed by an adult. A Status Offender is a juvenile that has committed an act that is not a felony or misdemeanor if committed by an adult.

How Long Does a Juvenile Crime Stay on Someone’s Record?

The system creates electronic records the moment of someone’s arrest. These include fingerprints, police reports, witness statements, court-ordered evaluations, as well as a wealth of personal information.

Rhode Island Juvenile Law

Fortunately, in Rhode Island, all of this sensitive personal information is protected. It is one of only nine states that entirely safeguard juvenile records from the public. As a result, they are visible only to the courts and automatically sealed upon the final disposition of the case. In Rhode Island, if you have a juvenile record, you have no criminal history as far as the law is concerned.

What Are Some Outcomes of an Arrest?

After an arrest, a detention Risk Assesment Instrument (RAI) is completed by the arresting officer. This assessment determines if the youth is a safety risk. If so, authorities take them to the Training School. If not, the process continues.

Petition to Family Court

The arresting officer is required to petition and submit a detailed report of the allegations. Subsequently, the report is reviewed to see if there is enough evidence to bring the minor to court. If accused of a less severe crime, the juvenile’s case is to a Non-Judicial Deposition.

Formal Court Process

Youth who plead not guilty to juvenile offenses enjoy the same right to a fair trial as adults. The only difference is there is no jury for juvenile cases. However, for grave crimes like rape and murder, a juvenile may transfer to an adult court.


Juvenile offenders who are found delinquent or wayward have several possible outcomes.

  • Transfer to a family residential facility or group home
  • Confinement at the Rhode Island Training School
  • Restitution (paying the victim for damages)
  • Probation
  • Participation in treatment or counseling

Contact Rhode Island Juvenile Offenses Lawyer S.Joshua Macktaz for a free consultation.

It is vital to retain an experienced juvenile defense attorney if arrested for an offense as a minor. Some specific rules and outcomes set juvenile offenses apart. Learn more about the specifics of the Rhode Island Juvenile Justice System here.

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