Kids spray paintingThis is the next post in our series discussing why it is important to hire a private attorney to handle Arkansas misdemeanor matters. In our last post we discussed why a person may miss out on the opportunity to have the case against them dismissed if they do not consult with an attorney out of financial concerns. In this post we will be addressing juvenile charges and explain why hiring an attorney is not optional in most cases.

A juvenile must be represented by an attorney when charged with any form of delinquency in Arkansas

The Arkansas juvenile system is different than the adult criminal system. An adult is not required to have legal representation when charged with a misdemeanor crime. An adult may choose to represent themselves, particularly in a misdemeanor matter in which they intend to plead guilty or no contest. However, when a juvenile is to appear before a Judge then that juvenile is required by law to have an attorney. This is true whether the juvenile is accused of something as benign as vandalism or something more serious such as assault.

During the first Court hearing, if the parents do not bring representation for the child, then a Judge will ask if they would like a public defender assigned to the case. If the answer is yes then the parents must fill out a form called an Affidavit of Indigence. This form will be used to determine whether or not the family is “financially capable” of affording counsel. This form is a legal declaration of your assets and income; lying or misrepresenting your financial situation on this form can lead to criminal prosecution. If the court does not find a family eligible for a public defender then they are required to hire a private attorney to represent the best interests of their juvenile.

An experienced juvenile lawyer can often obtain the appropriate treatment your child requires

There is a reason that Arkansas law requires all juveniles to have an attorney present while the adult criminal system is heavily punishment based. The juvenile system focuses more on rehabilitation and treatment. Detainment is frequently a last resort after probation, drug counseling, community service, psychotherapy, or another appropriate response to a juvenile crime. In the juvenile system, a Judge alone makes all decisions based on what a child’s punishment will be and will do so after taking a wide range of factors into consideration. It is important to have an attorney who can explain your family’s specific situation and advocate on both the child and family’s behalf, to help obtain a response that will address any behavioral or mental health needs the child may have.

If your child has an upcoming court date in juvenile court, it is important to consult an attorney immediately. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.