Juvenile cases in New Hampshire begin with the filing of a delinquency petition. A ‘delinquent child’ is a child under 18 years old who commits an offense that would be a misdemeanor or felony under the criminal code if committed by an adult and found to be in need of counseling, supervision, treatment or rehabilitation.
Juvenile cases, like adult cases, are adversarial. Juvenile clients enjoy many of the same rights as our adult clients; the right to a trial, the right to be found not delinquent unless and until the State proves ever element of the delinquency petition beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to present witnesses and testify and the right to exclude any evidence improperly obtained.
If a juvenile is found guilty or “true” as the term is used in the juvenile court, the Judge will impose a penalty that is, at least theoretically by statute, the “least restrictive” and “most appropriate” given the facts of the case. The possible sentence can include community service, restitution, a fine or being placed on conditional release (probation) for a period of time. The possible sentence can also be more restrictive and costly such as sending the juvenile to a group home, crisis home or shelter care home, or being placed at the Youth Development Center.
Juvenile cases sometimes end up like a game of tug of war. Parents want a certain outcome, such as the return of the child to the home, while prosecutors, juvenile probation officers and guardian ad litems want the child placed into a costly and long-term placement. A child in this situation can become easily confused and quickly overwhelmed amidst all the adult players purporting to speak on their behalf.
Attorneys Shepherd & Hayes advocate for their juvenile clients from day 1. We pursue the case with the same vigor as an adult case. We challenge the State’s evidence and make sure our juvenile clients are afforded every possible right enjoyed by our adult clients. We listen to our juvenile clients and advocate forcefully for their wishes and desires through the entire process.