In Ohio, Juvenile Cases Are Separated from Adult Cases
Interviewer: How is a case classified as a juvenile case?
Adam: In Ohio depending on the county, they’ll separate juvenile and domestic or they’ll just make it part of one court that handles both. There will be two judges. One judge will handle just strictly juvenile and one judge will handle strictly domestic law, or they will handle both each.
So it depends on the county how they handle things. When it comes to just referencing juvenile law, there are a number of different things that you have to consider when you define what juvenile is. It could be juvenile criminal. It could be juvenile custody, a custody case that is related to a juvenile matter, so they vary depending on which county you’re working in.
Common Juvenile Criminal Cases
Interviewer: Let’s focus on the criminal cases, what are some of the most common things that you’ve seen in regard to the criminal case for juveniles?
The Most Common Juvenile Offense Is Criminal Damaging
Adam: Probably the most common juvenile cases are either going to be something drug related. This could either be a possession charge or some other drug-related manner. More common are charges of criminal damaging, where they go out and spray paint a structure or they hit a mailbox. Criminal damaging is probably the most common.
Interviewer: Do you ever see any trespassing or weapons charges?
Adam: I’ve actually even have dealt with up to murder charges related to juvenile matters.
Interviewer: What about fights on the school grounds?
Adam: That is also a common circumstance. It depends on whether they’re charged and if they are, they’re probably going to be charged with assault. Or they could potentially face additional charges, if there was a weapon or some other item used that falls under the classification of a weapon. It could be a felonious assault. Assaults are fairly common also.
Less Common Juvenile Offenses Include Murder and Drug Trafficking
Interviewer: Now you mention murder as one of them, what are some less common cases that you may have worked with?
Adam: Less common would include murder, trafficking. I guess less common would also include some type of alleged sexual assault or indiscretion.
Interviewer: With trafficking, do you mean drug trafficking?
Adam: Somebody that is in high school that may be selling. Predominantly it’s usually related to marijuana. Usually it’s just somebody that sells a small amount at school and they find themselves facing criminal charges.
Interviewer: Does that have to do with any gang-related activities? Is there still a lot of that going on in the high school?
Adam: In Youngstown, Ohio there is a decent amount of criminal involvement. Predominantly it revolves around heroin. Either that or Ecstasy, and crack and cocaine would also be in there.
Marijuana Possession is typically a Misdemeanor Charge for a Juvenile; Heroin, Cocaine and Prescription Drugs Are Felony Charges
Interviewer: What determines a misdemeanor and a felony charge for juveniles?
Adam: It depends on the drug and that is the first thing that will determine the level of the charge. If it’s marijuana it’s typically going to be a misdemeanor.
If it’s trafficking, or over a certain amount then it’s going to be classified as a felony. Cocaine, heroin, and typically most prescription drugs are going to be felony charges at that point.
It could be something fairly simple; even the possession of one pill is sufficient to establish it as a felony.
Weapon Possession Charges Are Either Misdemeanors or Felonies
Interviewer: What about like possession of a weapon? Would that always be a felony?
Adam: Not necessarily. It’s going to depend on a lot of things. I would say more likely it’s going to be deemed a misdemeanor. But if it’s a pistol, minors are prohibited from possessing a handgun, so that probably is going to bump it into a felony category.
I’ve had people who have had numchuks or even ball bats that depending on the circumstances that would probably be a misdemeanor but it’s still a violation of laws under Ohio.
The Juvenile Defense Attorney Will Explain to the Family What the Charges Are and What Type of Defense Will Be Required for the Best Possible Outcome
Interviewer: How do you work with the guardians or the parents of the juvenile?
Adam: It depends on what the background of the juvenile is and if they have had priors. Most often, I have to explain to the guardian or the parents what the potential outcomes are and what we can anticipate as the case progresses.
Sometimes there are suppression issues if it was an illegal search or something along those grounds the cost of the defense could get more expensive. They have to understand that versus what they want the actual outcome to be.
If we want the outcome to be bigger than what I can deliver then I am up front and honest in saying look, this is the best we can get. If we get that initially then I would consider it a win. If it’s something that is definitely winnable then we take it to a trial. I wouldn’t mislead them as far as my anticipation and of my analysis of the case.
By Adam Hunt