By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer
H. Michael Steinberg has had extensive experience representing juveniles who have been charged having committed criminal acts. That experience spans the least serious traffic matters and minor misdemeanors to the most serious kinds of felony crimes.
“I have two “kids,” a son and a daughter. Both have become lawyers in the last two years (2018 -2019). One of my kids is a District Attorney, the other a criminal defense lawyer (go figure).
I well understand the importance of family both as a parent and as a defense lawyer and I will make certain to handle your child’s case in the best possible way – with compassion, sympathy, understanding, skill, creativity, and a focus on what is best for them in their lives.”
While I have written in this area many times, a quick revisit is always a good idea.
The Clear Differences Between Juveniles And Adults In Criminal Courts
The effective representation of a child charged in the Colorado juvenile justice system is very different than in the adult criminal justice system in the very same building. This is not an area that easily crosses over from the adult system and it takes years of experience to fully understand the differences. Don’t let your child be part of the learning curve.
Having a child as a client carries much greater communication responsibilities than with an adult charged with the same crimes. Juvenile clients, in a word, are different and very special at many levels.
Here are some basic rules to follow as a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer should you have a juvenile client.
• A criminal defense lawyer should never “label” A young client and never make any assumptions with regard to their young clients. Labeling results in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• A criminal defense lawyer must never, ever rush to judgment about what type of person they have as a client. Juveniles who are in the terrifying court system need at least one adult to believe in them…. and they deserve a clear demonstration that their lawyer cares about them and not just about the legal fees. These kids need not only respect, they need hope.
• A criminal defense lawyer should take the time, more so than with adult clients, to sit down and talk with their client without the parents present and connect with them in a way that makes them comfortable with a complete and very truthful exchange of information.
• Along with the concept of “labeling” a young person the criminal defense lawyer should never treat their juvenile client, even those who have been to juvenile court before, as if they are a career criminal – they are just kids who have made mistakes – they are in trouble and need help they do not need to be judged by yet another adult in their lives.
• District Attorneys, Guardian Ad Litems, Judges, even the court clerks can become jaded and view all juveniles in the system as losers – a lawyer must force them to see their young person as an individual worth saving.
• Criminal defense lawyers should never be afraid, when appropriate of course, to show emotion and caring and while I am a large man over 6 foot 1″ and almost 250 pounds – trust me – a demonstration of caring hug such as a firm and positive handshake can work wonders.
The “Language” Of Colorado Juvenile Criminal Court Is Different Than Adult Criminal Court
Juvenile courts intentionally use a very different set of legal terms to describe the many phases of the process when compared to adult criminal court.
1. The charging document is a petition and not a complaint and information.
2. Except in only the rarest cases (serious sex crimes for example) there is no right to a jury – cases are tried to the Judge or Magistrate. The burden of proof however and all of the key rights accorded to adults during the trial are the same in both juvenile and adult court – guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
3. A juvenile in “Juvie” court is not convicted they are “adjudicated a delinquent child.” They are not labeled as convicted for the reasons stated above. They are not “criminals” just because they have been “adjudicated” for a “delinquent act” – which by the way is not considered a crime.
4. A Delinquent Child is never sentenced instead there is a “disposition” of their case and a “plan” is implemented.
The key difference between the adult and the juvenile court system is that the primary goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation whereas in the adult system the goals of sentencing are much more complex and varied.
In Colorado juvenile court you will hear only about the “best interests of the child.” In adult court, the focus is primarily on the best interests of society. The goals of the juvenile court are focused on rehabilitation through treatment, therapy, and education.
Juvenile court engages the juvenile’s family members, provides services, such as family or other types of therapy, provides access to and encouragement of social activities, parenting classes, educational programs, workforce preparation, and much more.
Compare Sentencing In Colorado Adult Cases
Compare the very different statutory purposes of the adult code with respect to sentencing:
To punish a convicted offender by assuring the imposition of a sentence he deserves in relation to the seriousness of his offense;
To assure the fair and consistent treatment of all convicted offenders by eliminating unjustified disparity in sentences, providing fair warning of the nature of the sentence to be imposed, and establishing fair procedures for the imposition of sentences;
To prevent crime and promote respect for the law by providing an effective deterrent to others likely to commit similar offenses;
To promote rehabilitation by encouraging correctional programs that elicit the voluntary cooperation and participation of convicted offenders; ( HMS only one prong for this area of sentencing)
To select a sentence, a sentence length, and a level of supervision that addresses the offender’s individual characteristics and reduces the potential that the offender will engage in criminal conduct after completing his or her sentence; and
To promote acceptance of responsibility and accountability by offenders and to provide restoration and healing for victims and the community while attempting to reduce recidivism and the costs to society by the use of restorative justice practices.
If you or your child is charged with a juvenile crime in Colorado, you need an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney who is also experienced in juvenile court. HMS