Massachusetts Youthful Offender Defense Lawyer
In Massachusetts, there are two kinds of criminal juvenile cases that can be brought against a child. These two types of cases are called delinquency charges and youthful offender indictments. The overwhelming majority of criminal charges brought against juveniles are delinquency charges.
Delinquency charges can be filed against any child that is 7 years old or older. Any crime that exists under Massachusetts law (with the exception of murder) can be charged against a child between the ages of 7 and 17 as a delinquency. Once a child reaches the age of 18, they are considered an adult in Massachusetts, and any charge brought against them would be prosecuted in adult court. Delinquency cases are prosecuted in the Juvenile Court, and are closed to the public. The names of juveniles involved in delinquency cases are withheld from the public, and delinquency Juvenile Court proceedings cannot be covered by the media.
The maximum penalty for all delinquency charges is a commitment of the offending child to the Department of Youth Services (“DYS”) until the age of 18. In most cases, children sentenced to a commitment to DYS rarely stay in DYS custody until their 18th birthday. Most committed children serve a period of months in a secure juvenile facility and are released on conditional liberty (the equivalent of juvenile parole) until their 18th birthday.
In certain situations, prosecutors may feel that a commitment to DYS until the age of 18 is not a sufficient maximum penalty for a particular crime allegedly committed by a juvenile. In these circumstances, a prosecutor may try to indict the juvenile as a youthful offender. Juveniles can only be indicted as youthful offenders in certain specific circumstances. In order to be indicted as a youthful offender, a juvenile must be between the ages of 14 and 17 at the time the offense was allegedly committed.
If a juvenile falls into the 14 to 17 year old age range and has previously been committed to DYS, they can be indicted as a youthful offender for any offense that is a felony under Massachusetts law.
If a juvenile falls into the 14 to 17 year old age range and is accused of a certain violations of Massachusetts gun laws, they can be indicted as a youthful offender.
Although some prosecutions are brought each year under those two sections of the youthful offender law, the majority of youthful offender charges are brought when a child falls into the 14 to 17 year old age range and is accused of a crime that involves serious bodily injury, or the threat of serious bodily harm. This section is most frequently used when a juvenile is accused of a sexual assault, an armed robbery, or an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
If a child is indicted as a youthful offender, their case will be handled much differently by the court than a delinquency. Youthful offender cases are open to the public. Information about the cases can be released to the public by the court, and the court hearings can be covered by the media.
The biggest difference between delinquency and youthful offender cases are the maximum penalties faced by the juveniles indicted as youthful offenders. A juvenile indicted as a youthful offender can be sentenced to the same maximum penalty as an adult facing the same charge. For example, an adult charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in state prison. If a juvenile is indicted for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, as a youthful offender they can also be sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison.
Almost all juvenile cases start out as delinquency prosecutions. Prosecutors can choose to indict any eligible delinquency case as a youthful offender after the delinquency case is already in court.
If your child has been indicted as a youthful offender, or is facing a delinquency case that is eligible for indictment as a youthful offender contact Massachusetts juvenile defense lawyer Daniel Cappetta immediately for a free consultation. Even if your child only faces a delinquency that will not be indicted your child needs aggressive representation to make sure a harmful criminal record is not created that can haunt your child in the future. As a former juvenile prosecutor Attorney Cappetta knows the stakes your child is facing, and can help defend your child and protect their future. Contact him for a free consultation today at (508) 762-4540 or contact him using the form on this website.