Three Primary Areas of Juvenile Proceedings
Juvenile law cases tend to revolve around three primary areas: delinquency, dependency-neglect, and family-in-need-of-services. But, what does each of those areas mean? And how will that classification affect your experience with the juvenile court system?
“Juvenile Delinquency” in Arkansas
According to Arkansas Juvenile Code 9-27-303, a “delinquent juvenile” is any youth between the ages of 10-18 who commits a criminal act, or “any juvenile charged with capital murder or murder in the first degree.” Arrested juveniles have the right to counsel, and it is the legal responsibility of the arresting officer and intake officer to inform the individual of this right. Juvenile courts emphasize rehabilitation over incarceration, and consulting with a juvenile defense attorney can help increase the likelihood of a more favorable outcome.
If a juvenile has been abandoned, abused, neglected, or is at risk due to unfit parenting, the case would fall under the blanket of dependency-neglect. The Department of Human Services (DHS) will typically become involved in these types of cases to help investigate maltreatment claims and look out for the child’s best interests. When appropriate, this may involve taking the child into protective custody. The plan may be to work toward rehabilitation so the child can return home or, if that is not an option, DHS can help individuals and families move through the adoption or emancipation process.
Dependency-neglect cases are serious legal events, and each party should have access to competent legal representation. The court will appoint an attorney to represent the child when a dependency-neglect petition is filed or if the court has probable cause to believe the child’s health or wellbeing are at immediate risk.
Family-in-need-of-services cases, or FINS, are generally brought to the court by parents or school officials, typically when a juvenile is habitually truant, disobedient, or has run away from home. FINS are also commonly referred to as “status offenses,” as the issue being addressed – underage drinking, for example – would not be considered illegal if it weren’t for the youth’s “status” as a juvenile.
The court has a variety of support and supervision strategies it can employ to help the family and/or protect the youth, including but not limited to:
- Child care
- Family therapy / Crisis counseling
- Short term cash or transportation assistance
- Parent training
- Community service
- Supervision terms (electronic monitoring, school attendance, random drug testing, etc.)
While FINS cases can involve community service, court fees, and supervision, the goal is to provide support and rehabilitation. In some cases, the court may request help from the Department of Human Services to protect the youth or provide more extensive support for the family.
Understanding Juvenile Proceedings
Juvenile court cases are serious legal events. Understanding the different types of cases – and how they are handled by the courts – can help you navigate the juvenile court system and prepare an appropriate legal defense. In the same vein, it is important to find an attorney with experience defending clients in juvenile court, so you can be confident he or she understands the nuance of juvenile law.
Juvenile Law Attorney Ben T. Roberds
Bentonville attorney Ben T. Roberds has extensive experience in the juvenile court system, and his criminal defense and family law background make him uniquely qualified to assist many individuals and families during juvenile law proceedings. If your child or teen has been charged with a juvenile offense, or if you need help moving through dependency-neglect or Family-in-Need-of-Services proceedings, an experienced attorney can help. Learn more about the Roberds Law Firm’s juvenile law, criminal defense, and family law services.