The Juvenile Division is responsible for prosecuting all felony offenses and Class A and B misdemeanor offenses committed by children ten years of age or older and under the age of seventeen. These include homicides, sexual assaults, burglaries, assaults, and drug offenses. All such prosecutions are brought in the Montgomery County Juvenile Court.
In contrast with adult prosecutions, in which a defendant is convicted of a crime upon a finding of guilt, the juvenile system adjudicates a child for an act of delinquency upon a finding of true. This difference in terminology is intended to reflect the difference in approach between the adult and juvenile justice systems. The Texas Legislature has designed our juvenile law to favor the rehabilitation of children whenever possible, and avoiding the stigma associated with adult criminal proceedings is part of that effort. In furtherance of that objective, the Juvenile Division approaches each case with the goal of seeking the child’s rehabilitation, while balancing the need to protect society. When it appears that rehabilitative efforts will be a waste of county resources and the public cannot be protected so long as the juvenile remains in the community, punishment with incarceration becomes the primary focus. The County Attorney’s Office works very closely with the Juvenile Probation Department in determining the best course of action in each case.
Once adjudicated for an act of delinquency, a juvenile can be subject to a disposition ranging from probation up to a 40-year determinate sentence to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, depending on the nature of the offense. A determinate sentence allows the Juvenile Court to require that the juvenile fulfill the complete term of the sentence, with the incarceration or parole transferring to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at any time after the individual has reached the age of sixteen. In particularly egregious cases, or cases in which the juvenile has already exceeded his eighteenth birthday, the County Attorney’s Office will petition the Juvenile Court to transfer the case to a District Court for prosecution as an adult from the outset.
The Juvenile Division also handles all post-adjudication proceedings that may arise, including appeals, sex offender registration hearings, and motions to seal records.
The County Attorney’s Office has two full-time juvenile prosecutors and a part-time prosecutor dedicated to handling the juvenile Drug Court. The Juvenile Division is further staffed by two legal assistants and an investigator, with the office’s Victim-Witness Coordinator fulfilling another pivotal role in their cases. On average, the division handles at least 1,200 cases per year.