Minors, (people under the age of 18), accused of committing what would be a criminal offense if he or she were an adult, are brought before the Rhode Island Family Court for a determination of whether or not that minor is either delinquent or wayward. A child will be considered wayward if found to have committed an act that would constitute a misdemeanor for an adult, and delinquent if found responsible for committing an act that would constitute a felony for an adult.
The juvenile justice system is a complex and specialized area of law that requires an experienced attorney familiar with the different rules and laws surrounding juvenile procedure. Although similar to criminal defense, it is NOT the same thing. We here at Inman & Tourgee have several attorneys who have practiced in juvenile delinquency and wayward cases for many years. We know the system and we know the fine points that get lost on attorneys who rarely step foot inside of the Family Court. For example: criminal penalties are usually established by state statute. However, for juveniles accused of an offense that would constitute a crime for an adult, the statutory maximum penalties for that offense do not apply in juvenile proceedings. Whether accused of a wayward or delinquent offense, the Family Court can keep jurisdiction over a child under his or her 19th birthday. And despite the fact that juvenile proceedings are considered confidential, a finding of delinquency can be used against a child later in life in the event he or she ever gets convicted of another criminal offense. It can also disqualify that child from consideration for future job opportunities, military, or schooling options. Some offenses even carry sex offender registration for a juvenile!
This is why it's important to have experienced juvenile justice attorneys at your side if you or a family member have been brought before the Rhode Island Family Court on a delinquent or wayward petition. The ramifications of going it alone or going with an inexperienced juvenile justice attorney can have life-long repercussions. Call one of our experienced attorneys, who have both experience prosecuting and defending in the juvenile criminal system!