The Juvenile Criminal Process in Oklahoma 

The Juvenile Criminal Process Requires Skilled Legal Representation 

When an adult is arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, their case is referred to a prosecutor, who will decide what charges to file, if any. If charges are filed, the defendant will be tried, and, if found guilty, face punishment.

The juvenile criminal process does always not function the same way, though many people misunderstand how it works. Someone under the age of 18 is not automatically considered a “juvenile,” and, if they are convicted and sentenced to some level of incarceration, they will not necessarily be released on their 18th birthday. The juvenile criminal process in Oklahoma is actually quite complex and involves a fair amount of discretion on the part of law enforcement and prosecutors. This means having an experienced attorney by your side can greatly influence the outcome of a case.

The Shoemake Law Firm is committed to defending juveniles who have been accused of many types of crimes, including drug crimes, DUI, theft crimes, sex crimes, nonviolent crimes, and violent crimes. Sheila Shoemake is a knowledgeable lawyer who understands the intricacies of the state’s juvenile criminal defense process. She will work closely with you to answer your questions, explore your defense options, and advocate for you from beginning to end.

If you are confused about how the juvenile criminal defense process may impact your or a loved one’s case, do not hesitate to call (405) 451-1372 or contact the firm online. The firm offers free initial consultations, same-day appointments, and services in English, Spanish, and French.

How the Juvenile Criminal Process Works in Oklahoma

When a law enforcement officer believes an adult is committing a crime, they are generally required to arrest the suspect. However, if a law enforcement officer suspects a juvenile of committing a crime, they have several options for responding. 

Law enforcement may:

  • Detain, warn, and release the juvenile
  • Detain, warn, and release the juvenile into the custody of their parents or guardian
  • Detain, hold in custody, and refer the case to the applicable juvenile court

In other words, a juvenile suspected of a crime can in some cases get off with a stern warning. For this reason, you should always be cooperative and responsive to all police instructions if you are detained. Do not make any unnecessary statements without consulting a lawyer, but acting cordially could be the difference between a warning and being held in custody.

If a case is referred to a juvenile court, one of three things will happen:

  • Dismissal. If for whatever reason the prosecutor does not wish to pursue charges, the case will be dismissed, and the juvenile will be released into the custody of their parents or guardian. This is the best-case scenario at this stage.
  • Informal Hearing. Though the juvenile will not face formal criminal charges or a trial, they will be required to appear before a judge or probation officer. The juvenile may face one or a combination of several punishments, including fines, restitution, mandatory counseling, community service, or probation. In some rare cases, a judge may decide to continue to hold a juvenile in custody. 
  • Formal Criminal Charges. If the prosecutor wishes to pursue the case, they will set a court date. A fitness hearing will also be scheduled to determine whether the defendant will be tried as a juvenile, youthful offender, or adult.

When you are detained by law enforcement, do not wait to ask for an attorney who understands the juvenile criminal process in Oklahoma. Many cases can be resolved without a criminal trial, and Sheila Shoemake has the negotiation prowess to help you seek a favorable result. She will work to avoid formal charges and instead secure a warning or minimal penalties.

Will a Minor Be Charged as a Juvenile Delinquent, Youthful Offender, or Adult?

Many people assume that anyone under the age of 18 will always be charged as a delinquent, while others may know that a juvenile can sometimes be tried as an adult. Oklahoma adds an additional wrinkle to this process through the addition of a third possible category: In certain situations, a juvenile may be charged as a “youthful offender.”

The age of the juvenile and the severity of the crime typically determine how they are charged. A juvenile is usually charged as a juvenile delinquent if they are 15 or younger and/or commit a lesser offense, such as drug possession, petit larceny, simple assault, or public intoxication. Juvenile delinquents are not “convicted,” and their criminal records are sealed. Though they may be ordered to be incarcerated at a juvenile detention facility, they will typically be released when they turn 18.

The youthful offender charging category may become relevant if a juvenile is between the ages of 15 and 17 and/or commits a more serious offense. Crimes that tend to trigger youthful offender status include armed robbery, second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, first-degree rape, shooting with intent to kill, assault with a deadly weapon, manufacturing controlled substances, trafficking controlled substances, and first-degree burglary, among others. This charging category is meant to provide criminal juveniles with more rehabilitation opportunities. 

Being tried as a youthful offender is preferable to being tried as an adult, but it is less ideal than being tried as a juvenile. Youthful offenders receive adult sentences, though they are often commuted if the juvenile shows signs of rehabilitation. Youthful offenders will initially serve any jail or prison sentence in a juvenile detention facility, but they are not automatically released when they turn 18. They may remain in a juvenile detention facility until they turn 20, or they may be transferred to an adult jail or prison. Most youthful offenders can be released when they turn 21 if they can demonstrate that they have been sufficiently rehabilitated. 

The juvenile criminal process in Oklahoma very rarely tries juveniles as adults. Under state law, however, any juvenile charged with first-degree murder must be tried as an adult, no matter their age. 

Retaining a strong criminal defense lawyer can help you secure a preferable charging category. The Shoemake Law Firm fights to ensure its clients are charged as juvenile delinquents whenever possible. The firm’s team knows what is at stake and leverages the full extent of its resources and negotiating ability to pursue an optimal outcome, no matter the circumstances.

If you or a loved one are facing juvenile criminal charges of any kind, call (405) 451-1372 or contact the firm’s team online. The firm serves clients in Canadian County, Oklahoma County, Grady County, Pain County, Pottawatomie County, Lincoln, and McClain.

  • “Sheila kept us informed as to her approach to resolving this matter which kept us at ease. She was receptive to receiving additional information that came to us and followed through.”

    - Former Client
  • “The people that work there are really responsive and nice. I got some good advice and when I was done I had a outcome that I was really happy with.”

    - Hope F.
  • “Expediency, effectiveness, and affordability all rolled up in a truly positive experience.”

    - Melissa Z.
  • “Shoemake will always answer her phone and your questions.”

    - Chuck L.
  • “She genuinely cares about her clients and is always professional.”

    - Former Client
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