In Pennsylvania, minors can be charged with crimes and sometimes tried as adults, if the crime is serious enough. One common charge for juveniles — mostly teenagers — is domestic violence. Teens may be accused of assaulting family members as well as a partner they're dating - or even cohabitating with in cases of older teens living away at college, sometimes unbeknownst to parents.
What is the process for a minor who is accused of domestic violence?
Tried as a Juvenile or Adult?
When minors are charged with committing a crime in Pennsylvania, they go through the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court System. In some cases, however, the child may be tried as an adult. If the charge is murder, the child is always tried as an adult, no matter how old they are. Children who are at least 14 years old and accused of a felony may be tried in the adult court system if the juvenile court believes doing so would be in the public interest. If a minor over 14 uses a deadly weapon to commit a felony or commits a serious offense like rape or sexual assault, they may instead be tried as an adult, especially the closer a juvenile is to age 18.
Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania
To understand how a juvenile domestic violence charge will be handled, it's important to know what Pennsylvania considers domestic violence. Some examples may include:
- Physical assault such as shoving, pushing, kicking, hitting, or punching
- Criminal restraint
- Threatening harm to the person
- Sexual assault, lewdness, or coercion
- Stalking, either online or in-person
- Harassment, either online or in-person
As you can see, the definition isn't limited to physical violence. For example, if a 15-year-old child threatens to hurt their sister during a heated argument in a way that makes the sister truly fear for her safety, the 15-year-old could possibly be charged with domestic violence.
The Process for Juvenile Domestic Violence Offenses in Pennsylvania
A minor charged with the crime of domestic violence will first go to the Juvenile Court System, just as they would for any other crime. They may go to the adult courts if their crime meets the criteria previously mentioned.
In the Juvenile Court System, the minor will be arrested and taken to a juvenile detention center, with a detention hearing following no more than 72 hours later. If there's reason to believe the minor committed the crime, there will be an adjudication hearing to determine if the child is delinquent. If the minor is found delinquent, there is a disposition hearing to determine what the penalty will be.
Juvenile Offenders Have a Right to Legal Representation Too
If you are under 18 and have been accused of domestic violence, or your child has been accused of domestic violence, having an experienced family law attorney is crucial. Going through the juvenile courts can be frightening for minors, and they shouldn't have to do it alone. At the Lento Law Firm, we can help protect your or your child's rights if they've been charged with a crime. Call attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.