There's this cultural belief that just won't die about juvenile crimes being inconsequential. Thanks, in part, to pop culture stories that exaggerate the opportunities of record sealing and expungement, too many parents and teenagers seem to think crimes committed during high school are not a big concern. Sadly, allowing that inaccurate belief to guide your reaction to juvenile charges could end up having major consequences for your child in the future.
While Colorado does handle juvenile offenses in a manner that differs from adult crimes, the potential for ongoing issues related to a conviction or guilty plea exists. The courts may consider a number of options in working with your child, but you need to understand the seriousness of juvenile criminal charges to truly appreciate the options available to you.
Juvenile offenses can impact future schooling
Not all criminal charges stemming from actions as a juvenile end up sealed or expunged. Many times, teenagers convicted of criminal offenses will have to deal with a criminal record for years. In some cases, early offenses can result in an adult criminal record. Juvenile convictions could impact the ability of your child to secure college admission or scholarships. It could even impact enrollment in high school.
In the case of drug offenses, any conviction, even possession, could mean the end of your child's college dreams. Students with any criminal record related to drugs will have to report that when filling out the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA). Drug offenses immediately disqualify college students from receiving federal student aid. That means grants, work-study programs and even subsidized loans will not be an option for funding your child's education.
Colorado does try to protect juvenile offenders
The criminal justice system in Colorado tries to focus on rehabilitative, rather than punitive measures for juvenile offenders. One of the ways they make this distinction is by protecting juvenile offenders from prolonged exposure to incarcerated adults. In some cases, minors under arrest could end up in an adult facility, but that should last for no more than six hours.
For minors accused of offenses that are not crimes for adults, such as running away or the possession of alcohol, the courts will do their best to seek a solution that does not involve incarceration for the offender. The same is often true for other first-time juvenile offenses. Probation, drug or alcohol counseling or even community service could be alternatives to incarceration.
Whatever you do, you should take the charges against your child seriously. You should look into defense options and seek solutions that protect your child's future. Failing to understand the potential lifelong consequences could result in problems when your juvenile child becomes an adult.