Connecticut juvenile laws
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CT defense attorneyIn many communities, vandalism and minor property crimes, referred to as criminal mischief in Connecticut, are essentially considered a rite of passage for young men and women. However, law enforcement can and does take these offenses very seriously, especially if the amount of property damage is significant. If your child has been arrested for criminal mischief, you need to engage an attorney who understands the nature of both Connecticut’s juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

Different Levels of Severity

Connecticut criminal mischief laws are designed to encompass a variety of crimes designed to damage property. The state statute covers not only classic property damage and vandalism, but also intentionally causing an interruption of services such as electricity and otherwise interfering with equipment or property belonging to a utility. Like with many different crimes in Connecticut, there are different degrees of criminal mischief, and the charge will depend on the level of damage caused by your child.

In adult court, the consequences for criminal mischief can vary from 3 months in jail up to 5 years, with fines ranging between $500 and $2,000. Intent is a major issue - you cannot ‘accidentally’ commit vandalism or criminal mischief. One may accidentally cause property damage, but if the damage is accidental, then by definition, no crime has been committed. Essentially, if the prosecution cannot establish that you had intent to cause the damage, they have little to no case.

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CT juvenile defense lawyerManson Youth Institute in Cheshire, Connecticut, is a prison for young offenders who have allegedly committed a crime serious enough to wind up in the state’s adult court system. As of July 2019, there were only 43 young boys confined at Manson. This represents a significant change from the historical numbers - in July 2016, 76 were registered, and the number has been dropping for years. If your child is arrested and charged with a crime, you should be aware that the Connecticut penal system has been undergoing changes in the way young defendants are handled.

A General Downward Trend

In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, approximately 1,491 young people under the age of 18 were confined at Manson. That number decreased by approximately 92 percent over the next decade, with 2018’s final figure being 105. This is a hugely positive trend, but there are multiple reasons for the drop in juvenile inmate numbers that may or may not still apply in your child’s case. There are still many cases in which a prosecutor will determine that Manson or a similar secure environment is the best place for your child.

One significant change that came to pass in the decade between the figures is that Connecticut raised the age of adult criminal responsibility (except in cases of serious violent crime like murder or sexual assault) from 16 to 18. Sixteen-year-olds were added back into the juvenile justice system in 2010, and 17-year olds were added back in 2012. This means that 16 and 17-year olds that commit crimes that do not immediately merit transfer to the adult system are more likely to be charged as juveniles.

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CT defense lawyerWhile no parent likes to think about it, sometimes our children act in ways that are less than legal. When they do, it can often come as a great shock to learn that we as parents may be on the proverbial hook for the monetary damages. Connecticut has what are called parental liability laws which seek to place some of the liability for damages on the shoulders of parents of minor children. If your child commits a crime or an intentional tort (the equivalent under civil law), it is important that you understand the extent of your own responsibilities under the law.

Parents Held Responsible for Minors

While it can be an unwelcome surprise for parents to find they are liable for the damage their children cause, the rationale for holding them liable is fairly clear. In all walks of life, a parent is responsible for their children until they reach the age of majority, which is 18 in Connecticut. This responsibility simply extends to their children’s actions outside the home and immediate family sphere. However, there are limitations on this liability, and it also does not mean that no liability will extend to the minor themselves.

The law states that the maximum monetary threshold for parental liability on behalf of their minor child is $5,000. However, this threshold only applies if a parent is held liable under the specific statute. If a parent is sued for negligence - for example, if they had reason to believe that their child was going to do something violent and took no steps to stop them - that cap would not apply.

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CT defense attorneyThe criminal justice system treats youth offenders differently than it treats adult offenders. The general rule in Connecticut is that children under 16 years old cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions. However, there are certain exceptions to that rule.

Either way, it can be frightening and confusing if your child is arrested. Our experienced juvenile defense attorneys can explain your legal options and answer any and all questions about the criminal justice process. In fact, here are answers to a few questions that parents frequently ask when their children get in trouble with the law:

Q: When can juveniles be tried as adults in Connecticut?

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CT defense lawyerIn the months of December and January, many young people in Connecticut experience significant extra free time while on winter break from school. During this time, holiday hijinks or unmonitored social time may sometimes result in a juvenile’s being saddled with criminal charges. Make no mistake, juvenile criminal charges in Connecticut are a serious matter and must be defended against accordingly.

There exists a misconception that everything that happens in life before the age of majority, including juvenile criminal charges, are just magically wiped away at the age of eighteen. This is not the case. While the state’s juvenile justice system is charged with protecting the constitutional and legal rights of minors, it is not reasonable to assume that a juvenile conviction will simply disappear when the juvenile reaches 18 or 21 years of age. As such, it is imperative that a juvenile facing criminal charges in Connecticut be represented by an experienced Fairfield County juvenile criminal defense attorney.

Common Juvenile Criminal Charges in Connecticut

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Connecticut defense attorneyThe wind blows especially cold for some as October draws to a close and November marks the year’s turn toward winter. Halloween: an occasion for innocent costume donning and candy-crazed merrymaking for the young. For pre-teens and teenagers, however, All Hallows Eve can get out of hand, drastically so, with partying or misbehavior resulting in criminal charges ranging from alcohol and drug-related offenses to property damage or theft to violence to even sex crimes. For a juvenile facing one or more criminal charges in the state of Connecticut, a strong legal defense raised by an experienced Norwalk criminal defense attorney is a must.

Juvenile Criminal Charges Can Have Long-Term Consequences

Dangerous misconceptions about the juvenile justice system abound, tempting parents and children alike to underestimate the long-term impact of a juvenile conviction. Even a minor child can be sent away upon conviction for a year or more. In addition, even if a juvenile conviction is expunged from a child’s criminal record upon reaching the age of 18 or 21, the conviction can still have devastating effects upon the child’s ability to reach his or her full educational or vocational potentially.

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CT juvenile defense attorneyAs part of a broader mission to reduce juvenile prosecution and recidivism across the country, Governor Dannel Malloy introduced a bill that would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 21 years old. If passed, this bill could have extremely important repercussions for any youthful offenders being charged or prosecuted in Connecticut. If you or your child have been charged with a criminal offense and you have questions about the current law or how the new law could affect you, please contact an experienced Stamford criminal defense attorney who can address your concerns.

The Benefits of Reform

Last year, Governor Malloy proposed a similar law that would have raised the age when a juvenile could be charged as an adult to 21 years old. Although the law stalled in the Connecticut Legislature, the new bill has received support from a number of different groups in the state. The reintroduction is also part of a country-wide effort to lower recidivism among youth offenders. In fact, at least three other states are considering similar proposals.

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Connecticut defense attorney, Connecticut juvenile crimes lawyerWhile watching any teen movies these days, it seems that all our children want to do is drink alcohol and break rules. As the story progresses, a parent is nearly always out of town, and their child invites the entire school over for a night of unsupervised events. Luckily for these cinematic plots, there almost always seems to be a hero who opposes underage drinking and good choices triumph. Perhaps these scenarios serve as a cautionary tale for us as parents to never leave our children alone. However, on the other end, you also do not necessarily want them to go off to college without ever being trusted while you and your spouse run to the grocery store. What our juvenile children do while we are away can have us met with handcuffs and parental liability when we return.

Underage Drinking

If your child sneaks into the liquor cabinet while you are gone, it is not likely that the police will immediately come knocking on the door. However, once neighbors begin to notice droves of children flocking into your home while your car is absent, someone may be inclined to involve the police. Officers jump on the opportunity to make a public example of the teen in question. The problem with making a display is it supersedes the right to a fair court hearing. In too many cases, these juveniles invited over just a couple close friends and those friends are the people who called the school, unbeknownst to you or your child. In similar scenarios, leaving your adolescent alone with an open supply of liquor can result in a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,000.00. Your child can also face charges, resulting in:

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