In the State of Delaware crimes committed by amenable juveniles and crimes committed against juveniles are heard in Family Court. If you are a juvenile or parent of a juvenile that is charged, you want to be in Family Court. You DO NOT want to be tried as an adult. The penalties are less severe in Family Court and the juvenile system is geared toward rehabilitation versus punishment. Also, your child will likely have the opportunity to expunge his or her juvenile record. If your child is under 18 and facing trial in Superior Court you have 30 days from the date of arraignment to file a motion with the Superior Court to have the case sent back down to Family Court. It will likely be in your child's best interest to do this.
- Instances When Your Child's Case Will Default to Superior Court
- Reverse Amenability
- Juvenile Expungement
- Juvenile Supervision
Amenable means that your child can be rehabilitated through the juvenile justice system. In Delaware, certain charges go to Family Court by default. However, if you are 14 or older and the Family Court thinks you are NOT amenable, it has the power to send your child up to Superior Court to be tried as an adult. Conversely, the Superior Court has the power to the send your child back down to Family Court if the Court thinks he or she is amenable. This is called reverse amenability.
Instances When Your Child's Case Will Default to Superior Court
1. Your child is charged with any of the following offenses:
- Murder 1st or 2nd degree
- Rape 1st or 2nd degree
- Assault 1st degree
- Robbery 1st Degree
- Kidnapping 1st Degree
2. Your child is 16 or older, he was previously adjudicated delinquent of a felony and is now charged with Conspiracy 1st, Rape 3rd, Arson 1st, Burglary 1st or Home Invasion.
However, even if your child is sent to Superior Court by default, there are one of two ways the case can be sent back down to Family Court:
- the Attorney General may transfer the case to Family Court for trial if the Attorney General feels that the interests of justice would be served; OR
- the defendant makes an application to the Superior Court, the Superior Court will hold a hearing and weigh the following factors:
- the seriousness of the current offense;
- defendant's prior record;
- response to prior rehabilitation and treatment; and
- whether society and the defendant will be best served by a trial in Family Court.
One of the benefits of being charged as a juvenile is that your child will likely be eligible to have his or her record expunged. There are two types of expungment: mandatory and discretionary. If the expungment is mandatory, the court has no choice but to expunge the record. If discretionary, it is up to the judge to grant your child's expungment.
Juvenile expungement is mandatory in the following situations:
1. Your child was charged with a misdemeanor; the case was dismissed in the child's favor and the child has no other record;
2. Your child was charged with a felony; the case was dismissed in your child's favor; your child has no other record; your child has no pending charges and one year has passed since the case was terminated;
3. Your child was adjudicated delinquent on a felony or misdemeanor; your child has no more than one juvenile adjudication; it was NOT a violent felony or sex offense; your child has no subsequent adult convictions or pending cases; and three years have passed since the date of adjudication.
Juvenile expungement is discretionary in the following situations:
1. Your child was charged with felony, the case was terminated in your child's favor; your child has no other record; and less than one year has passed since the date of adjudication;
2. Your child was adjudicated delinquent of a sex offense; your child has no priors; no subsequent adjudications or adult convictions; no pending charges; and three years have passed since the case was terminated;
3. Your child was adjudicated on two misdemeanors; your child has no other offenses and five years have passed since the date of the second adjudication;
4. Your child was adjudicated on no more than one violent felony or sex offense; your child has no other record, and more than five years have passed since the date the child was adjudicated delinquent.
If your child is placed on probation in Family Court, the length of probation is typically one year. If your child commits a more serious crime and the judge determines he or she needs more intensive supervision, your child could be sent to a residential treatment facility for a short period of time. For example, the child could be sent to Snowden or programs such as the Glen Mills School . If your child needs more serious punishment, he or she will be sent to Ferris School where the stay will be six months followed by six weeks at Mowlds Cottage.
Contact my office if your son or daughter is charged with a crime. Call (302) 482-4802 for a free consultation. We will sit down and review the case in detail free of charge. I also have experience working with juveniles that have disabilities.