Teen crime is a serious problem, and too many people assume that just because someone accused of a crime is under the age of 18, they will get a free pass. The Texas juvenile justice system can have a lasting impact on your child and can even leave them with a criminal record before they become an adult. Understanding how the system works is important for parents throughout the state.

Who Does the System Work With?

First, understand that in Texas, the juvenile justice system is designed to work with children under the age of 17. If your teen is 17, they will likely be processed and charged as an adult. This catches many parents (and teens) by surprise. The same laws that apply to adult criminals will apply to your 17-year-old.

How Does the System Work?

For teens under the age of 17, the Texas justice system works differently than for adults.

After the initial detention hearing, teens may be released to their parents or guardian depending on the seriousness of the charges and the teen’s criminal history.

Serious and/or violent crime charges may mean that the teen will remain in detention instead of being released to his/her parents/guardian.

In some cases, teens may be referred to a first-offender program rather than go through the detention/hearing/trial process. After completing such a program, the teen’s charges may be dropped or reduced. These programs use a range of options to help rehabilitate and educate teens, including:



Victim restitution

Community service

The first hearing in the full juvenile justice process is called the detention hearing. This is the time when the judge will determine whether the teen can be released or must remain in detention.

A transfer hearing may be held to determine if the teen should be transferred to an adult facility (depending on the nature and seriousness of the charges).

If your teen does not plead guilty, they will have an adjudication hearing, which is similar to an adult trial.

If your teen pleads guilty, or the court finds that the charges are true during an adjudication hearing, the next step is the disposition hearing, during which sentencing is handled.

Finally, teens have the right to appeal their sentence after the court has handed down their decision.

Outcomes for Teen Criminal Cases

A Texas teen may face a wide range of outcomes during the justice process, including:

Dropping of all charges (the case may be dismissed, or the teen may complete a first-offender program)


Detention at a county facility for six to nine months

Detention between nine months and two years at a TJJD facility for serious charges

If the charges are drug-related, it is possible your teen will be required to complete drug abuse treatment. For those who commit less serious crimes, deferred prosecution and probation may be possible.

Whatever the case, it is vital that you work with an attorney who is very familiar with the Texas juvenile justice system. Contact the Law Offices of Sharita Blacknall to schedule a consultation on your case. You can reach us at 214-678-9111.