What Is Juvenile Assault and Battery?
Juvenile cases are handled differently than they are with adults – from the investigative procedures right down to how a juvenile is arrested. When it comes to accusations of assault and battery, it is critical that you speak with an attorney.
Depending on your child’s age, they may be tried as an adult, especially if the victim suffered serious injuries and your child is at an acceptable age. Just because they are under 21 does not mean they are considered a “juvenile” for all offenses. In the state of New Mexico, a juvenile that is 15 years or older can be charged as an adult, especially if they are indicted for 1st-degree homicide.
Assault and Battery when Tried as a Juvenile – Different Court, Different System, Different Process
It is critical that you understand how differently juveniles are tried for cases as opposed to adults. They have an entirely different court system, different presiding judges, and different procedures in place. The goal with juvenile offenders is to correct and rehabilitate so that the same behavior does not repeat itself, while with adults, the goal is to punish and rehabilitate.
Assault and battery are defined as the same whether an adult or juvenile commits the crime. In the state of New Mexico, assault is the attempt to commit physical harm, including intentional threats that make the victim feel that there is an imminent danger to their physical safety.
The actual act of striking someone, such as punching another person, is considered battery.
Age does not apply to the definition. Therefore, if a juvenile is arrested for assault, that means they intentionally tried to or threatened to physically harm someone. If they are arrested for battery, they did make physical contact and caused harm.
The Preliminary Inquiry
One of the biggest differences is how the case even starts. After the arrest and charges are filed, the juvenile is then sent to their local Juvenile Probation Office where they will meet with an officer to discuss their charges, rights, and opportunity to respond. At this meeting, it is imperative you have an attorney. While you are not in court, the probation officer will take everything you say into consideration when making their court recommendations. You need someone there to ensure you are not guided in the wrong direction.
The probation officer, after the inquiry, decides if the case will be handled informally or if the case will be referred to family court. With adult cases, the adult does not meet a probation officer until they are eligible for probation, which means long after the case goes to trial, they are sentenced, and they complete their sentence. With juveniles, the probation officers are involved right away, and what you say during that inquiry could determine whether or not you or your juvenile ever see the inside of a courtroom.
If the officer feels alternative methods are not applicable, then the case is referred to the Children’s Court.
Some alternative methods for a juvenile include:
- Ordering them to complete community service hours
- Attending a victim-offender mediation program
- Creating a formal written apology to the victim
- Enrolling in a juvenile diversion program
- Seeking counseling and possibly anger management
All of these outcomes are possible for juveniles accused of assault and battery, but only when an attorney gets involved early enough. An attorney can discuss these options, help plead the case to the probation officers, and drive the case toward an alternative instead of the court system.
Going to Court – There Is No Jury
If the case does go to the Children’s Court, then the case is heard in front of a judge and not a jury. The judge will have the District Attorney’s Office file a Petition of Delinquency, and the petition will provide information about the offender’s rights, including offering public defense services.
The juvenile must appear for a first appearance, which is where they will plead guilty or not guilty. In most cases, the defense and prosecution have already reached a deal at this point, which means the juvenile would then admit what they did to the court, plead guilty, and receive a sentence in accordance with their agreement with the prosecution.
If the juvenile did not reach a pre-trial agreement, then the judge would have to decide on the pre-trial bail and whether or not the juvenile goes home. They may set a curfew, order house arrest, and mandate that they attend school while awaiting trial.
The judge makes the decision on the case, and this is part of the disposition phase. During this stage, if the judge decides the juvenile is guilty of assault or battery, they will sentence based on the best rehabilitation option available.
For assault and battery charges, they often pick between:
- Family counseling
- Community corrections programs for juvenile offenders
- Ordering psychological assessment and evaluation
- Anger management and treatment programs
In serious cases, such as where serious harm occurred to the victim, the juvenile may be incarcerated in a state juvenile correctional facility – but most judges work to avoid this option. Instead, they may place the juvenile under probation, as long as there is evidence that their case can be managed outside of the state correctional facilities.
Was Your Juvenile Arrested? Contact an Attorney Now
While it might seem like there is not as harsh of a punishment for a juvenile offender, being accused of assault and battery does increase the likelihood that the less harsh options will be available. In fact, your child may be ordered to serve time in a correctional facility, especially if they are considered dangerous.
The best thing you can do is speak with an attorney that has experience with juvenile cases, especially those involving more violent criminal acts.
Contact the team at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today. We are here to help your family get the best possible outcome – especially if your youth is facing charges like assault or battery.
Contact us now so that we can start fighting for your child’s rights. Schedule a free case evaluation by calling our office or contact us online, and someone will be in touch to schedule a consultation as soon as possible.