In Minnesota, assault is one of the most serious charges that one can face outside of outright murder. However, as with any crime, once you put the word “juvenile” in front of the charge, people tend to feel that it is taken less seriously. After all, a child are often punished lighter than an adult, but is that true when it comes to juvenile assault charges in Minnesota?
Assault Charges for a Juvenile
Juvenile assault charges differ very little from their adult counter parts. Depending on the nature of the incident, a child will face assault charges in the first to the fifth degree, with first degree being for the most heinous cases and fifth degree being the most minor.
In most cases of juvenile assault charges, the child will face fifth degree charges if it was a simple fight. However, the degrees will go up if there was aggravating factors in the case. Aggravating assault factors that enhance the degree of an assault charge include:
- Use of a weapon
- Severity of the injury
- Criminal history of the child
- Whether or not the assault victim was a person of authority
These aggravating factors will raise the degree of an assault charge and will also come with more serious punishments. As the actual assault charges are similar for adults, the key difference in a juvenile assault case comes from what happens in court.
Assault in Juvenile Court
Juvenile court is well known for having the benefit of being able to hand out alternate punishments to children that result in no jail time or marks of their permanent records. However, just because juvenile court can hand out these alternate punishments doesn’t mean they will. Like in adult court, assault is looked upon very seriously in juvenile court. As juveniles who commit assault have an extremely high rate of committing another crime, often juvenile judges will feel that they need to bring the hammer down hard in order to prevent it. This is why parents with children going through juvenile court shouldn’t depend on the judge assigning lighter punishments like community service for crimes like assault.
Furthermore, whereas adults with charges of assault will often have the ability to explain what happened, those charged with juvenile assault are often not allowed to have their side of the story heard by the courts. As law enforcement often only puts minimal effort into gathering witness statements, if they even exist, and gathering evidence at the scene, often judgements are made based on victim statements. Often other factors that should affect how a juvenile case is judged, such as drug or alcohol use, provocation, or the use of self defense often go unheard or are presented in a way so that they should be disregarded by the prosecutors. It can be particularly difficult to get a fair judgement on juvenile assault cases without the help of a skilled lawyer to argue on the child’s behalf.
Seeking Legal Help
When it comes to a child being tried in juvenile court if your child is truly innocent, then you will always want to work for that not guilty verdict. However, if they are guilty, it might be better to present evidence in such a way that it results in a lesser punishment rather than no punishment at all. No parent wants their child to serve time in prison or a juvenile facility, but alternative punishments such as community service might be useful in putting them on the right path.
However, none of this can be possible without a skilled lawyer on your side. If your child has found themselves facing serious juvenile assault charges, contact us today and let Judith Samson help you.