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In Tennessee, children are not charged with criminal acts, including those considered to be felonies and misdemeanors. Instead, children who are alleged to have committed criminal acts are charged with juvenile delinquency, which is heard in juvenile court. According to the juvenile law statutes, delinquent acts are acts that would be crimes if committed by adults i.e. theft, assault, vandalism, etc. Acts that are specifically forbidden because the alleged perpetrator of those acts is a child are called status offenses or unruly offenses i.e. truancy, runaway, possession of tobacco. Both types of acts are taken seriously by juvenile courts and there are severe consequences for children if petitions are filed against them for both types of these acts. A delinquent child means a child who has committed a delinquent act and is in need of treatment or rehabilitation, and that might include the child leaving the family home and going into the legal custody of the Juvenile Justice division of the Department of Children’s Services. An unruly child may also be placed into DCS custody depending on specific circumstances.Juvenile Transfer as Adult
Depending on the age of the child and the acts that the child was alleged to have committed, a juvenile court has the power to transfer the case to a criminal court and have the child treated and punished as an adult. This can only happen after the child is given reasonable notice and a hearing is held where the child can argue against the transfer of the case to the adult criminal justice system. Factors that the juvenile court will consider include: the child’s delinquency history, the nature of past treatments or services provided to the child, whether the alleged offense was aggressive or premeditated, the possible rehabilitation of the child, whether there was gang involvement in the alleged act, and other factors that the juvenile court might consider. Once the child’s case is transferred to the adult criminal justice system, the child will be treated as an adult for any future alleged criminal conduct.
At the first sign of trouble, contact our office to schedule a consultation with a firm attorney. Remember, taking steps to protect your child (regardless of whether they did something wrong or not) is the responsible thing to do as a parent. Children can be influenced by adults, make statements to protect themselves or others, or just plan say stupid things. These statements made by you or your child at the very beginning of an investigation could have significant impact on your child’s case. Hiring a lawyer who specializes in Juvenile Defense from the outset is important to provide the best defense possible for your child.
If you have any questions, please contact our office at 615.298.7272.