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Guide to Juvenile Criminal Charges in Colorado

Posted on 08/28/23

Navigating the legal system can be challenging, especially when it involves juvenile criminal charges in Colorado. Like in many states across the U.S., Colorado has laws and regulations are in place to handle minors who engage in unlawful behavior differently than adults. 

The Juvenile Court System in Colorado

Colorado handles minors under the age of 18 who have been accused of criminal activity through a separate juvenile court system. This system is designed to focus on rehabilitation and guidance rather than punishment. The court handles a variety of issues, including delinquency, status offenses, and child welfare proceedings.

Delinquency Offenses

These offenses involve actions that would be considered criminal if committed by an adult. Examples include theft, vandalism, or assault.

Status Offenses

Status offenses are actions that are considered illegal only because the individual is a minor. Examples of status offenses include truancy, curfew violations, and running away from home.

Interventions in Cases of Abuse, Neglect, or Abandonment

The juvenile court in Colorado also has jurisdiction over cases involving child neglect, abuse, or abandonment, which are referred to as “dependency and neglect” cases. These cases are started when a complaint is filed with the court, usually by a social worker or law enforcement agent. The court’s role is to determine the child’s best interests by considering their safety and well-being.

Juvenile Arrest Process

The arrest process involving juvenile offenders in Colorado is very nuanced. Here’s a general idea of how it usually works:

Arrest and Release: When a minor is arrested in Colorado for an alleged crime, they could potentially be released directly to their parent’s custody—this decision rests on the discretion of police and probation officers.

In some cases, juveniles will be held pending a hearing. Authorities take proactive measures ensuring ‘status offenders’ (those committing offenses applicable only because of their young age) are housed separately from delinquent juveniles facing criminal charges or adults who’ve been detained.

Adjudication Hearings: Rather than being called trials, proceedings in the juvenile justice system are known as adjudication hearings. This process functions to determine whether or not a minor is guilty of committing the alleged offense.

Determination and Sentencing: If a juvenile is found guilty during an adjudication hearing, the court then schedules what’s known as ‘a disposition hearing’ (equivalent of sentencing for adults). 

The focus during sentencing isn’t simply punitive; aside from holding young offenders accountable for their actions and providing safety to communities, it also prioritizes youth rehabilitation with strategies intended to promote positive life choices moving forward. If you have questions, our Colorado Springs defense attorneys can help.

Juveniles Tried as Adults

Under certain circumstances in Colorado, a juvenile can be tried as an adult. This decision depends on several factors including the nature of the crime committed and the likelihood of repeated delinquent behavior. Specifically, juveniles can be charged as adults if:

(I) A petition filed in juvenile court alleges the juvenile is:

(A) Twelve or thirteen years of age at the time of the commission of the alleged offense and is a juvenile delinquent by virtue of having committed a delinquent act that constitutes a class 1 or class 2 felony or a crime of violence, as defined in section 18-1.3-406; or

(B) Fourteen years of age or older at the time of the commission of the alleged offense and is a juvenile delinquent by virtue of having committed a delinquent act that constitutes a felony; and

(II) After investigation and a hearing, the juvenile court finds it would be contrary to the best interests of the juvenile or of the public to retain jurisdiction.”

Juvenile criminal charges in Colorado can be a complex area of law requiring careful navigation. Understanding the process from arrest to sentencing is vital for minors and their families who find themselves involved in such proceedings. If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule a free consultation.