Juvenile Offenses

Definitions and Applicable Law

Juvenile Offenses




Despite the public’s periodic clamor to get tough on juvenile crime, the juvenile justice system in Washington strives to recognize the difference between kids and adults. Whereas the adult system focuses on being punitive, the juvenile system works toward rehabilitation and lesser penalties. I think that it is safe to assume that everyone did something as a kid that they now regret and not look to repeat it as an adult.

Prior to going to law school, I worked extensively with kids in a variety of settings. After graduating from college, I spent a year as a full-time volunteer in a group home for emotionally disturbed kids in Helena, Montana. I then spent a year in the back country working with kids serving sentences in a wilderness program. Once back in Washington, I worked at Echo Glenn Children’s Center, a juvenile correctional facility. Regardless of the setting, I was constantly amazed and inspired by the kids’ spirit, energy and resilience.

Juvenile clients present a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous responsibility. I have the opportunity to assist them in a complicated, intimidating set of proceedings. It is a tremendous responsibility to make sure that every legal, factual and equitable defense is explored and used to my client’s advantage. I want to be sure that my clients get back on track and are given every opportunity to have a productive and fulfilling life in the future.

Sentencing Ranges

The sentencing ranges for juvenile offenses are set by the legislature. The sentence can range from community service to incarceration until the juvenile’s 21st birthday. The applicable range is determined by the seriousness of the offense and the juvenile’s prior adjudications

Decline to Adult Court

First, adult criminal courts exercise EXCLUSIVE ORIGINAL JURISDICTION over juvenile offenders who are 16 or 17 years old and whose alleged offense is:

  • A. A serious violent offense;
  • B. A violent offense and has a juvenile criminal history consisting of:
    • i. One or more prior serious violent offenses;
    • ii. two or more prior violent offenses; or
    • iii. three or more of any combination of the following offenses:
      • Any Class A felony,
      • Any Class B felony,
      • Vehicular Assault, or
      • Manslaughter in the Second Degree,
  • C. Robbery in the First Degree, Rape of a Child in the First Degree, or Drive-by Shooting committed on or after July 1, 1997
  • D. Burglary in the First Degree committed on or after July 1, 1997, and the juvenile has a criminal history consisting of one or more prior felony or misdemeanor offenses; or
  • E. Any violent offense committed on or after July 1, 1997, and the juvenile is alleged to have been armed with a firearm

Second, the adult criminal court may also assert jurisdiction over juveniles when the juvenile court uses its discretion to decline jurisdiction1. Unless expressly waived by the juvenile court, A DECLINE HEARING must be held in the following cases:

  • A. The juvenile is 15, 16, or 17 years old and the alleged conduct (offense) constitutes a Class A felony or an attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit a Class A felony;
  • B. The juvenile is 17 years old and the alleged offense is any of the following: Assault in the Second Degree; Child Molestation in the Second Degree; Extortion in the First Degree; Indecent Liberties; Kidnapping in the Second Degree; or Robbery in the Second Degree; or

Any juvenile and the alleged offense is Escape and the juvenile is serving a minimum juvenile sentence to age twenty-one (21)


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Homicide defense requires an examination of a variety of issues: identity, self defense, alibi, faulty eyewitness witness identification, inadequate investigation and mental defenses.

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The most common issues in assault cases are self defense and victim fabrication. I have had great success uncovering information that is favorable for my clients and all too often overlooked by the police.

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Robbery cases often involve questions of identity or victim participation. Many wrongful convictions from around the country involve faulty identification procedures that invariably result in misidentifications. In other cases, the victim is less than forthright in what is actually a dispute over money, drugs or property.

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In burglary cases, the issues often center around identity, proof that the defendant indeed to commit a crime inside the building (if not, it is a criminal trespass) and whether the building was open to the public.

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Theft cases are often document driven cases. Questions include – whether the defendant was the person who took the money or property? Was taking wrongful? Did the defendant have permission?

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Malicious Mischief

In malicious mischief cases, can the State prove that the defendant was acting maliciously or was it simply an accident? Other issues often involve questions of identity, the admissibility of the defendant’s statements, and the true cost of the damage.

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Arson cases present all kinds of issues that must be examined: identity, accidental vs. intentional fires, sufficiency of the investigation, intent, admissibility of the defendant’s statements, and identity.

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Driving/Motor Vehicle Offenses

Criminal traffic cases can be very complex and technical. The difference between an accident and an alleged criminal act can often be very narrow. The defense must scrutinize the accident reconstruction, the witnesses’ accounts and scientific tests.

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Courts take gun cases very seriously given that they frequently see cases involving gun that end with tragic results. Weapons cases often involve questions of whether the officers conducted a proper search and had a basis to seize the gun.

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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence cases run the gambit – anything from misdemeanor theft to murder. It is simply a designation that is added to a crime. However that designation can have significant consequences for defendants.

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All too often kids do things that they and their parents regret. The juvenile justice system is supposed to place an emphasis on rehabilitation over punishment. In addition to all the other applicable defenses, it is important that the court not forget that we are working with a kid and not an adult.

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Immigration Consequences

The consequences of a criminal charge, let alone a conviction, can be devastating for noncitizens. Work visas, education visas, tourist visas and the ability to later naturalize can hang in the balance depending the case’s outcome.

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