Types of Juvenile Crimes: Common Offenses by Kids

Common Offenses We See Arising In The School Context (As Well As Outside Of School):

            -Assault (misdemeanor), e.g., fights at school with other students

            -Assault on a public servant (felony), e.g., student hitting/bumping a teacher, administrator, or hall monitor in the course of a fight; student pushing a hall monitor, administrator, or campus police officer in the course of running away; student (often in special education) with anger issues/emotional disturbance/other disability becoming angry and hitting teacher

            -Distribution/Possession of controlled substance or marijuana (felony) – Note: these cases are enhanced to an even higher degree felony offense because they take place within a school zone (but marijuana, when not in a school zone, is a misdemeanor, not a felony); Further note: we are not just talking illicit drugs like cocaine, meth or heroin. This also includes possession/distribution of prescription drugs without a prescription – an ever-increasing problem with teens: e.g., bringing some of mom or dad’s Xanax to school, having someone else’s Ritalin in his backpack, selling or sharing one’s prescription medication with other students, etc.

            -Weapons cases (misdemeanor or felony depending on the context and the type of weapon), e.g., student bringing knife to school

            -Trespass (misdemeanor), e.g., student who is suspended/removed/expelled coming on to campus property during the time of suspension/removal or after expulsion – Note: students are automatically issued a criminal trespass warning as part of the removal/expulsion


Other Issues Bringing Kids To The Attention Of Police (obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but includes some of the most common offenses we see in juvenile court):

            -Theft (misdemeanor or felony depending on the value), e.g., shoplifting at the mall

            -Credit card abuse (felony), e.g., using someone else’s credit card (or a stolen credit card) to go shopping

            -Evading arrest (misdemeanor if running away on foot; felony if by car), e.g., cops show up to bust up a party, kids run away

            -Failure to ID (class C misdemeanor if refuse to give your name/address/DOB; class B misdemeanor if giving false or fictitious info), e.g., cops arrive at a party, detain a child, and ask for his name – refuses to give, or gives false information (Note: using/possessing a fake ID can be a felony for tampering with a governmental record!)

            -Interference (misdemeanor), e.g., kid trying to interfere or help a friend who is getting arrested by police

            -Resisting arrest (misdemeanor), e.g., kid tries to pull away from an officer arresting him/her

            -Burglary of a building (felony), e.g., kids break into an abandoned house or building to have a party, drink or use drugs

            -Burglary of a vehicle (misdemeanor), e.g., breaking into a car

            -Alcohol-related offenses, e.g., parties where police show up, kids who have fake ID’s & go to 6th Street, etc. (these are class C misdemeanors, often resulting in a ticket, but also arrestable): e.g., “MIP” – Minor in possession of alcohol; e.g., “MIC” - Minor in Consumption (all a cop needs to say is that he smelled alcohol on the child’s breath); e.g., Public Intoxication; e.g., Attempting to purchase alcohol (Misrepresentation of Age by a Minor; Purchase/Attempt to Purchase Alcohol by a Minor (again, Note: fake ID can be a felony!)

These can result in suspension of driver’s license for:

  1. 30 days, if never convicted of a similar offense

  2. 60 days, if the second offense

  3. 180 days, if the third or more offense

            -Alcohol-related offenses, driving: e.g., DWI (misdemeanor; felony if 3rd offense); e.g., DUI - Driving under influence of alcohol by a minor (class C misdemeanor, arrestable or a ticket) – offense for a minor to operate a motor vehicle in a public place while having ANY detectable amount of alcohol in their system.

NOTE: Can a minor refuse to take a breath test? Yes, but the following penalties will result:

            - suspension of driving privileges for at least 120 days for the first arrest

            - a 240-day suspension of driving privileges if the minor has one or more previous drug or alcohol related offenses within a five year period


Less Common but Very Serious:

            -Sex crimes (almost always a felony), e.g., Aggravated Sexual Assault, Injury to a Child, etc. These and other sex crimes can result in the requirement to register as a sex offender.

            -Aggravated assault (felony), e.g., hitting someone with some weapon


The Law Of Parties And Teenagers:

In Texas, there is a legal doctrine called the “law of parties.” This does not refer to when someone’s parents go out of town!

Kids do things in groups; hence, kids get arrested in groups. We frequently have parents come to us, incredulous that their child was arrested because it was actually their child’s friend who possessed the marijuana, or stole the makeup from Target, or broke into the building, etc. – how could their child be arrested when s/he was there, but didn’t do the actual offense? We then have to explain Texas’ version of what most people know as “aiding and abetting.”

Under the law of parties, each person in the group (who is therefore party to the offense) is liable as if s/he was the principal actor; therefore, everyone in the group is charged with and can be punished for the entire offense, regardless of the role (minor/major) that s/he played. This is often easiest to explain with the example of a “lookout” (someone standing watch to make sure the police or others do not observe what is happening) in a burglary, or a getaway driver in the robbery of a convenience store. The lookout or driver are actually not the ones breaking into the building or holding up the convenience store guy; but they are just as liable as the person who broke the window or held the gun and will be charged with burglary or robbery just the same.

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