How Does New Mexico Deal With Juvenile Suspects?
In New Mexico, a juvenile can be charged with any crime that an adult can be charged with; however, when a juvenile is charged with a crime, the charges will typically be handled in a Children’s Court, as opposed to a regular criminal court. Likewise, cases involving juvenile defendants are referred to as “delinquent cases,” instead of criminal cases.
In most cases, juveniles get involved in the criminal justice system because their names appear on a police report or they have been arrested. The police are then required by law to refer the case to a Juvenile Probation Office.
The Preliminary Inquiry
Once a juvenile’s case has been referred to the local Juvenile Probation Office, a “Preliminary Inquiry” will be held between the Juvenile Probation Officer, the juvenile, and his or her family. The purpose of the Preliminary Inquiry, which will be held at the probation office, is threefold:
- To explain the charges against the juvenile,
- To discuss the juvenile’s rights, and
- To provide the juvenile and family with an opportunity to respond.
Once the Preliminary Inquiry has concluded, the probation officer will decide whether to handle the juvenile’s case informally or refer the case to the Children’s Court attorney for further action.
If the probation officer chooses to handle the case informally, the juvenile may be required to complete one or more of the following requirements:
- Community service
- Taking part in a victim-offender mediation program
- Write an apology letter
- Enrollment in an early diversion program
- Completion of an individualized plan designed by all parties
The Court Process and Disposition
If the probation officer decides to refer the case to the Children’s Court for further action, the court process will have a district attorney file a Petition of Delinquency in the juvenile’s case and serve the juvenile and his or her family with a copy.
The petition will state the offense(s) that the juvenile has been charged with and provide information regarding obtaining a public defender or a private attorney to represent the juvenile in the courtroom.
First Appearance in Court
To start with, the juvenile will have the option of accepting a plea bargain or going to trial (adjudication). The Judge will then decide if the juvenile will be allowed to remain at home throughout this process or if he or she will be detained, based on juveniles’ individual needs and the nature of the circumstance.
If the Judge allows the juvenile to remain at home, he or she may impose any combination of the following conditions:
- A curfew
- House arrest
- A mandate to attend school
- A mandate to attend counseling or other treatment services
- An order to avoid contact with victims and/ or peers of negative influence
- Periodic drug testing
- An individual plan designed by all parties involved
Furthermore, a probation officer may be assigned to supervise the juvenile and ensure that he or she complies with the conditions of the release.
This is the trial phase of the process. The Judge will hear the case and make a decision based on all evidence presented to the court. If the juvenile is found to be not guilty, the charges will be dismissed.
If a juvenile is found guilty, the case moves on to the dispositional phase, which may take place immediately during adjudication, or be scheduled for a later date.
During the deposition phase, the juvenile, who has been found guilty, will be sentenced by the Judge to one of the following consequences:
Probation with Conditions – probation ordered based on the juvenile’s individual need and circumstances. This may include any combination of the following:
- Periodic assessment and evaluation
- Family counseling
- Community services
- Participation in community corrections program
Time Waiver – offered for minor offenses. If the juvenile completes certain conditions and stays out of trouble for six months, the case will be dismissed.
Consent Decree – the least formal disposition, which consists of six to twelve months of supervised probation. If the probation is completed successfully, the case will be dismissed.
Judgment/Probation – a formal disposition requiring the juvenile to be supervised under probation for a period ranging from one year or until he or she reaches the age of twenty-one.
Judgment/Incarceration – incarceration in a state juvenile correctional facility or a local juvenile detention center.
If your child is facing charges under the Children’s Court system in New Mexico, your child’s future may very well be at stake. You should waste no time in contacting an attorney who is experienced in defending juvenile suspects and who can assist you in getting your child out of the juvenile system, out of trouble, and back on the right track.
A Good Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help in Cases Where Minors are Involved
If you’re a minor or a parent of a minor who has been charged with a crime, call the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices in Albuquerque at (505) 375-4664 for experienced legal representation. Defenses are available, and an attorney will use all legal means to negotiate an outcome that will keep the your or your child at home with your family and cause the least amount of disruption to your lives.