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How does Texas law define a “child”?

If you recently learned that the state charged your teen with a criminal offense, you may wonder if it will try him or her as an adult or a juvenile. This is a question many parents who deal with the Texas court system for the first time have, and it is a valid one, as a juvenile versus adult conviction often means the difference between jail and a deferred adjudication program. The Texas Attorney General Juvenile Justice Handbook explores how the state determines the status of a juvenile.

The most basic factor the courts will consider when determining the status of a juvenile is, of course, the person’s age. For juvenile law purposes, a child is a person who is older than 10 years of age but younger than 17. If a person is between 17 and 18 years of age, however, the state does not automatically assume the individual is a child. Rather, it will look to the circumstances surrounding the crime.

Generally speaking, the state will lose its jurisdiction and the juvenile system will gain its power if the offender in question engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for adult supervision. Delinquent conduct refers to conduct, other than traffic violations, that violates state or federal criminal laws. The conduct, if committed by an adult, must be punishable by jail time or imprisonment.

Conduct indicating a need for supervision is that which involves a fine-only offense. CINS may include inhalant abuse, running away, prostitution, sexting or expulsion from school. CINS does not include traffic offenses. Excluded traffic offenses do not include jail-able traffic offenses, such as a DUI that results in manslaughter.

The content of this article is for educational purposes only. You should not use it as legal advice.