Sentencing and Judicial Release for Juveniles
An often forgotten about area of criminal law is that affecting juveniles. We have all heard someone say “children are our future”; it’s one thing to say that but it’s often ignored in world of juvenile adjudications.
The Juvenile System is Different Than That for Adults
First, we’ll talk about some basics of juvenile law. The juvenile system in Ohio is very different than that of the adult criminal justice system. The most important distinction to make is that juveniles are never “convicted” or “found guilty,” they are “adjudicated delinquent” by a judge or magistrate. Further, juveniles are rarely tried as adults. That is reserved for serious charges such as aggravated murder or for repeat offenders who have served time in a detention facility.
Juvenile Sentences Are Different Than Those for Adults
Next, we’ll talk about the classifications of juvenile offenses and their possible sentences. Juvenile offenses don’t carry the usual range of possible imprisonment. For example, an adult charged with regular 2nd Degree Felony Robbery would be facing 2-8 years in prison. However, juvenile felonies are divided between “Category 1” and “Category 2” offenses. A Category 1 offense is usually either a 1st or 2nd Degree Felony. Such a charge carries a minimum sentence of 1 year and a maximum of until the offender turns 21. A Category 2 offense is a 3rd, 4th, or 5th Degree Felony. Such a charge carries a minimum sentence of 6 months and a maximum of until the offender turns 21.
However, it is important to keep in mind that commitment to a detention facility is not mandatory in most juvenile cases. A juvenile can always receive probation so long as there is not a mandatory sentence, even on a serious charge such as 1st Degree Felony Rape. (It is important to note that a gun used during the offense can change much of the analysis thus far.) Also, judges have unique discretion when it comes to juvenile sentences.
Release from the Department of Youth Services (“DYS”)
Juvenile detention sentences, when one is imposed, are very unique. If the judge sentences a juvenile to detention on that 2nd Degree Felony Robbery Category 1 offense, the minimum term is 1 year. However, for that 1 year, the judge still has the sole power to release the juvenile early. The same rule applies to a 6-month minimum term on a Category 2 offense. After the minimum term has expire though it is entirely at the discretion of DYS to let a juvenile out. And again, they can decide to keep a juvenile until age 21.
Judicial Release is available for both Category 1 and Category 2 offense, which means it’s available for all classified felonies. Juveniles are eligible at:
- 90 days served for Felonies of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Degrees
- 180 days served for Felonies of the 1st and 2nd Degrees
Requests for judicial release can be filed by:
- The juveniles themselves
- The juvenile’s parents
- Or even DYS
Once a request for judicial release is filed, the court can approve, deny, or have a hearing within 30 days. It is critical to note that if a motion for judicial release is rejected, only 1 more request can be filed and only after 30 days have elapsed since the last rejection. Thus, filing for judicial release is strategic in nature; requests need to be made wisely.
Of course there are many caveats to judicial release and sentences for juveniles. Gun specifications especially can lead to a lengthy term (up to 3 years, mandatory) and be served consecutively to any other minimum term for the underlying felony. That is why it’s important to find an experienced criminal defense attorney when a child is facing serious criminal charges, even misdemeanors. While many will claim that children are the future, the juvenile often doesn’t have many allies when facing charges. The Law Office of Brian Jones handles juvenile cases regularly and understand the intricacies of this very different area of practice.