On Friday, May 30, 2014 David Gonzalez was one of several lawyers invited to conduct the annual Juvenile Court Certification training program. David taught the subject of Determinate Sentencing.

Determinate Sentencing is a mechanism to provide greater flexibility – and punishment – for juvenile respondents charged with the most serious felony offenses but lack the sophistication and maturity to be certified as an adult. A child can be placed on determinate sentence probation until 19, and then the district court can transfer that probation to the adult system. If the court believes the child does not need any further supervision, the court may also terminate the determinate sentence probation.

In recent years trial courts in central Texas have been upholding lengthy determinate sentences, and then approving transfer to the adult prison system. The result is that a 16 year old who is adjudicated for a serious felony often enters a plea bargain for 15-20 years with the promise that if they do well at TJJD, they could be discharged and paroled from the system. When they do not do as well as the judge expected, the court has little power but to transfer the balance of the sentence to the adult prison system.

This leads to a very important reality: children can receive just as long and harsh prison sentences through juvenile court as they could in adult felony court. Most people erroneously assume that juvenile court is not as serious as adult court.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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