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What are the options when your teen is in legal trouble?

The teen years are hard on everybody, but for some, this challenging time can lead to criminal behavior. The reasons are numerous: a desire to fit in, a way to get attention, curiosity. Even the best of parents can have teens who get into a brush with the law.

Whether this is your teen's first criminal charge or you have dealt with this situation before, you may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do. The legal system for juveniles is different from that for adults, so it is important to have an understanding of how things may go, so you can try to get the best outcome for your child.

Treatment

If your teen has a problem with harmful and/or illegal substances, treatment is always a good solution. Getting to the root of the problem can prevent your teen from going down this road again. Treatment is also beneficial if your child has a mental illness that contributed to the criminal behavior.

Diversion programs

The goal of a diversion program is to offer other forms of accountability and discipline to keep teens out of the judicial system. Programs may range from receiving a warning to obtaining intense treatment. They are mostly for low-risk youth, such as first offenders, but some exist for helping those in greater trouble.

Deferred prosecution

Deferred prosecution provides your teen with an opportunity to show responsibility and change to avoid prosecution. It is like probation in that your teen needs to have good behavior for a certain amount of time and to fulfill certain requirements, such as community service. If your teen is successful, the court will drop the case and not create a criminal record.

Other options

These are only three possible outcomes for your child. Depending on the circumstances, one of these other actions may occur:

  • Case dismissal due to a lack of sufficient evidence
  • Verdict of not guilty
  • Different types of probation

If these are not possible, your teen may be able to get his or her juvenile record sealed.

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