Facing any type of criminal charges can be a scary thing to handle, but when it is your child facing these charges it opens up a whole other set of worries. Your child's education, career, and future may be at risk due to a criminal charge, if not properly defended. There are important options that may be available to you and your child, but with no experience in the criminal defense field, you may not be aware of your best options. With the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer at your side, you can protect your child's best interests.
If your child is currently facing criminal charges in West Chester or Chester County, criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is here to defend your child.
West Chester/Chester County Juvenile Defense Attorney
Joseph Lento has years of experience defending juveniles and adults from a range of charges. He knows what could await your child on the other side of conviction or adjudication, as well as what moves to make now so this doesn't happen.
If your child has been accused of a juvenile offense such as assault, drug and marijuana charges, theft, or sex crimes, contact the Lento Law Firm. Joseph will work hard to fight for the best possible outcome. Call (888) 535-3686 today to schedule your initial case consultation today.
Chester County Delinquency Process
Pennsylvania law attempts to rehabilitate children, rather than punish them in the same way adults are. If a minor is charged with an offense, a delinquency petition is issued against that minor. A judge, rather than a jury of peers, will determine if the juvenile committed an illegal act.
If the judge makes a determination that the juvenile is a "delinquent child", a date will be set for a disposition hearing. At the disposition hearing, the child will learn about the consequences he or she may face. Juvenile matters are handled in the Chester County Justice Center, located at:
201 Market Street
West Chester, PA 19382
The office of Juvenile Probation is also located within the Chester County Justice Center.
Chester County Juvenile Offenses
The prosecutor will bring most charges against minors through the Juvenile Division of the Chester County Office of the District Attorney. The purpose of this prosecutor is to prove that the child should be adjudicated "delinquent", rather than trying to prove someone is "guilty" of a crime, as seen in the adult criminal justice system.
PA law defines a "juvenile" as any person 10 years or older but under the age of 18 at the time the alleged offense was committed.
The first step in the process is an adjudication hearing. At this hearing, the judge will determine whether he or she should be determined delinquent. At this time, the child will enter an "admission" to the conduct or the juvenile will contest the charges against him or her. At these hearings, it is incredibly important to have legal counsel present.
The judge will determine whether sufficient evidence exists that the juvenile did commit the offense. This is not a final determination; this hearing is only to determine if sufficient evidence exists to make it to the next stage of the proceedings.
During a disposition hearing, a juvenile judge will determine whether the juvenile committed the offense charged. A disposition hearing does not involve a jury; the judge makes the ultimate determination. The prosecutor will present evidence, and your child's attorney can cross-examine any witnesses and present evidence to demonstrate that the child did not commit the offense.
Please note, these processes are for individuals under the age of 18 who are charged as juveniles; if your child has been charged with an offense as an adult, this will not be the process.
Potential Chester County Juvenile Penalties
Typical penalties ordered by the court may include one or more of the following:
- Time in a juvenile detention center
- House arrest
- Community service
- Substance abuse programs
- Temporary or permanent revocation of driving privileges or driver's license
- Random drug testing
Juvenile Probation in Chester County
Juvenile probation is intended to encourage children and teenagers to reach rehabilitative goals. The process is as follows: Chester County will first appoint a Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) for the supervision of any juveniles found delinquent. The period of supervision will then begin.
During the period of supervision, certain rules may be imposed upon a juvenile (such as a curfew, drug testing, refraining from associating with certain individuals, etc). A treatment plan will be implemented. A Chester County JPO will set goals for each supervised juvenile. These goals can include things such as service hours or rehabilitative program participation goals. The JPO will also meet with the juvenile at regular intervals. Chester County programs for juveniles often involve counseling, job development, drug testing, medication, and regular evaluations.
Pretrial Diversion Programs
A pretrial diversion program is a type of deferred adjudication that may be available to certain juveniles, depending on the circumstances of the case. In a pretrial diversion program, the child will agree to specific requirements, but in exchange, he or she will never be charged with the offense.
If your child complies with the requirements, the criminal record is withdrawn, there is no trial, and there will be no need to worry about a criminal record. Your defense attorney can advise you whether or not your child may be eligible for a pretrial diversion program.
West Chester Juvenile Defense Lawyer
If your child has been accused of a crime in the West Chester or Chester County, it is highly recommended that you seek out an experienced juvenile offense attorney. Joseph Lento is passionate about helping juvenile charges through the system and not letting a youthful mistake have lasting repercussions.
For your consultation on how Joseph Lento and the team at Lento Law Firm can help you, call (888) 535-3686 today.