Dallas County Public Defender's Office

Juvenile FAQ's

Frank Crowley Courts – 133 N. Riverfront Boulevard, 9th Floor, Dallas, Texas 75207


DISCLAIMER : EACH JUVENILE DELINQUENCY CASE IS DIFFERENT. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO HAVE AN ATTORNEY WHO PRACTICES IN THIS SPECIFIC AREA OF THE LAW ASSIST YOU IN EVERY STEP OF YOUR CASE. THE INFORMATION PROVIDED BELOW SHOULD NOT BE RELIED ON AS LEGAL ADVICE, BUT INSTEAD IS INTENDED TO PROVIDE YOU GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT JUVENILE CASES AND PRACTICES IN DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS. IF YOU HAVE A JUVENILE DELINQUENCY CASE IN ANOTHER TEXAS COUNTY, OR STATE, YOU SHOULD SEEK ASSISTANCE FROM AN ATTORNEY IN THAT COUNTY OR STATE.

What is the role of my child's probation officer?

The probation officer makes recommendations to the court in regard to whether or not the child should be in detention and whether or not the child should receive probation and be placed in the home if the charges are found to be true. The probation officer may also look at "placement matches" outside the home for your child. The officer may recommend other services after assessing your child's case.

How do I get a lawyer?

The state may file a case against your child and have the constable serve you with papers at home. You may either hire an attorney or the court will appoint one. If your child is in detention, the Public Defender's Office represents your child for purposes of the detention hearings and may be appointed to represent your child for the allegations him/her. If charges are filed against your child, he/she will be served with papers at an announcement hearing. At this point the court will ask the parents/guardians if they are going to hire an attorney or if they are requesting that the court appoint a permanent attorney. The court may appoint the Public Defender's Office or a private attorney that accepts court appointments.

Do I have to pay for the appointed attorney?

Costs are assessed based on the family's income.

Why can't my child come home?

  • The court may detain a child under the authority of the family code if it finds that:
  • he is likely to abscond or be removed from the jurisdiction of the court;
  • suitable supervision, care, or protection for him is not being provided by a parent, guardian, custodian, or other person;
  • he has no parent, guardian, custodian, or other person able to return him to the court when required;
  • he may be dangerous to himself or may threaten the safety of the public if released; or
  • he has previously been found to be a delinquent child or has previously been convicted of a penal offense punishable by a term in jail or prison and is likely to commit an offense if released.

Can my child bond out of detention?

No, unlike the adult criminal justice system, the right to bail under the Constitution does not extend to juveniles confined in detention. However, the purpose of the detention hearings is so that a judicial officer (i.e., a judge) can review your child's detention status by on a regular basis.

My child is in detention on a gun charge. What's the minimum amount of time he/she will have to stay in detention?

The policy of the district courts in Dallas County that preside over juvenile cases is that a child who comes into detention on a charge involving the possession, use or exhibition of a firearm will remain in detention until the case is disposed of.

My child was adjudicated on a felony offense. Can he/she still have his/her record sealed?

It is possible to have your child's record sealed unless the charge is one listed under Section 53.045 of the Juvenile Justice Code or described in Section 51.031 of the Juvenile Justice Code (engaging in habitual felony conduct) AND the Grand Jury issued a certificate of approval to the petition alleging the offense. The Court will distribute a copy of the law relating to the sealing of files and records and the conclusion of the disposition hearing in your child's case.

Will being adjudicated for a felony affect my child's opportunities for applying for a job or school/college?

A finding of true that your child committed a felony is considered an "adjudication" and not a "conviction." An adjudication does not carry the usual loss of privileges that might result when an adult is convicted of a felony. However, federal job applications do ask about juvenile felony conduct if your child was sixteen or older at the time of the offense while other applications may ask whether your child has ever been on probation regardless of whether that resulted in a conviction. It is important to read these questions carefully and to understand what is being asked. If in doubt, consult an attorney.

How long can the court keep my child on probation?

Generally, probation is for one year, although it can range from six months up to until your child's eighteenth birthday. If your child is adjudicated for a sexual offense, the minimum probation is two years. If your child is placed on probation for an offense in which the Grand Jury issued a certificate of approval, probation can last for a long as ten years.

If found true on a sex offense, will my child have to register as a sex offender? If so, how long?

The Court may order your child to register, excuse your child from having to register, or defer the decision until after you child has completed a sex offender treatment program. If ordered to register, you child will have to continue to register for a period of ten years beyond completion of probation, parole, or sentence if not paroled.

Can an electronic monitor track my child if he/she runs away?

No, the electronic monitor only notifies the juvenile department that the child is away from his/her home at a time he/she should be there.

What is the school sign-in program?

In the school sign-in program the child carries a sign-in sheet with him that the teacher for each class signs to prove that the child actually attended class.

My child was appointed a lawyer. Does that lawyer represent me, too?

No, the lawyer only represents your child.

Can I be present when you talk to my child?

Discussions between an attorney and the client are confidential. If you sit in on an interview between your child and the attorney, the conversation is no longer confidential.