September 07, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Many kids charged with juvenile offenses in Colorado don't get legal representation, according to a recent report by state and national experts. Juveniles whose cases are processed without help from an attorney waive their right to valuable legal assistance that can sometimes mean the difference between conviction and acquittal.
Low-income youth are particularly at risk of lacking legal representation, according to the report by the National Juvenile Defender Center, with as many as 50 to 75 percent of juveniles having their cases resolved without speaking to an attorney.
The constitutional right to an attorney
Under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, anyone who is charged with a crime -- including juvenile crimes
-- has a right to right to receive help from a lawyer, also known as legal counsel. The right to an attorney applies at nearly every stage of the criminal process, from arrest and initial questioning through the investigation, plea negotiation and trial stages.
But according to Patricia Puritz, executive director of the NJDC, many Colorado kids charged with juvenile offenses waive their right to an attorney without realizing the full impact that the decision could have on their lives and their futures, CBS News reported. When charged with a juvenile offense, kids and their parents often waive the right to counsel in the hopes that it will help them resolve their cases more quickly.
Unfortunately, this approach often backfires. Without help from a criminal defense lawyer, juveniles who try to handle an investigation or plea negotiation on their own are at a distinct disadvantage and often sacrifice their chance of having the charges dismissed or being found not guilty. Because conviction of a juvenile offense can affect a young person's employment, housing and educational prospects for years to come, the consequences of waiving the right to counsel can be life-changing.
The role of a juvenile defense lawyer
The specific role of a criminal defense attorney varies from case to case, but typically involves the following key responsibilities:
- Ensuring that the juvenile understands his or her legal rights and making sure those rights are protected during the investigation and prosecution.
- Explaining the legal options available and the likely consequences of each.
- Advocating for the juvenile's interests during plea bargain negotiations.
- Representing the juvenile in court, cross-examining witnesses, presenting defenses and objecting to improper evidence or lines of questioning.
When any individual is arrested, whether a juvenile or an adult, it is up to that individual to invoke his or her right to counsel. To be effective, this must be done clearly and unequivocally; although law enforcement officers are required to inform individuals of their right to counsel upon arrest, they are not required to clarify an ambiguous request to have an attorney present. Thus, anyone arrested on suspicion of a criminal offense should immediately state that they want to speak to an attorney, and should not speak to police or investigators without an attorney present.
If your child is arrested for a juvenile offense in Colorado, contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney for help protecting your child's legal rights and his or her future.
Article provided by Robert Grossman
Visit us at www.robgrossman.com