Category: Juvenile Law

Juvenile Defense

Many people refer to “bad” kids as juvenile delinquents or troublemakers.  However, not every child who commits a crime is a “bad” child, destined for a life of crime.  All children have the potential to contribute greatly to society, even those who make mistakes or are the victims of bad choices.  Unfortunately, mistakes that catch the attention of law enforcement can lead to long-lasting effects for a child.  An attorney who practices juvenile defense can be invaluable in navigating the criminal system and protecting your child from unnecessarily harsh consequences.

Common crimes committed by juveniles

The most common types of criminal activity juveniles get caught up in are property damage or vandalism, theft and shoplifting, and disturbing the peace.  Some more serious juvenile offenses can include drug-related or violent crimes. For some children, participating in these activities is a result of peer pressure or simply their learning process on the way to becoming an adult.  Of course, parents are always greatly distressed to find out their child has committed a crime.  But does not have to have devastating consequences.

Benefits of Hiring a Juvenile Defense Attorney

Many people see defense attorneys as simply doing a job and assume that they do their jobs regardless of whether they believe the defendant actually committed the crime alleged.  When it comes to juvenile defense, however, it is essential to understand that kids are always experimenting with the limits of acceptable behavior.  For many kids, it is a normal part of growing up, even though it can result in an unintended brush with the law.

Many children who find themselves in this situation are dealing with a difficult family circumstances, made friends with the wrong crowd, or are just seeking an outlet. On the whole, many juveniles are merely the victims of mistake or lack of good judgment, not because of an innate malevolent streak.  Our firm believes that juvenile defense is a very serious service, especially because these types of charges could affect that child’s future. A one-time mistake or use of poor judgment should not be allowed to overshadow the rest of a young life or limit a child’s opportunity for a successful future.

Juvenile crime in Alabama

The statistics in Alabama are not encouraging.  In a report published by the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, there were more than 8,000 arrests of children under the age of 17-years-old in 2012.  Most minors who are arrested in Alabama are usually charged with a delinquent act — not a crime. Nevertheless, charges of juvenile delinquency still can have a lasting effect on children and a conviction for such acts can result in a juvenile criminal record.

If you find yourself in a situation where your child has been charged with a crime, you need a qualified and well-experienced attorney who will fight for your child with the same energy and seriousness as they would for an adult. If you need assistance with a juvenile case, please contact our firm either online, or by calling (205) 988-5570.

Grandparent Visitation

This is sort of old news, but it’s an important change in the law in Alabama regarding grandparent visitation. The Alabama Supreme Court in June of this year ruled the preexisting Alabama Grandparent Visitation Act, enacted by legislature in 2010, was unconstitutional. The Act, which allowed grandparents to seek visitation rights with their grandchildren even if the parent has given up or lost parental rights, was found to not properly protect parents’ fundamental right to decide how to raise their children. “The state can interfere with that right only if the parents are shown to be unfit, Justice Tom Parker wrote in the main decision, in which Justices Tom Woodall and Kelli Wise concurred.”

“The justices recognize the vital role grandparents and grandchildren play in each others’ lives, wrote Justice Glenn Murdock, himself a grandparent who recalled his special relationship as a child with his own grandparents.

“Ultimately, however, the question present is whether the government has the power to mandate, through the use of force if necessary, the physical removal of children from fit custodial parents,” he wrote. “As between fit parents and the government, I must chose the parents.””

-Eric Velasco, The Birmingham News

This is an important change in the law regarding grandparent visitation in Alabama, and will certainly be the cause of future litigation and controversy.

Read more here:

L.R. and D.E.R. v. C.G. and M.G.

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released an interesting opinion recently regarding termination of parental rights. Widely held as one of the highest burdens to meet in any area of the law, this opinion does nothing to diminish the fact that terminating a parent’s parental rights remains extremely difficult and is only granted in extreme, rare circumstances.

In L.R., the Court of Civil Appeals considered a case where the maternal grandparents received custody of the parties’ three minor children after a trial where it was revealed that the mother and father both had a history of drug use and criminal trouble. Morgan County DHR removed the children from L.R. after an investigation revealed that the two older children were subject to sexual abuse at the hands of neighbors with whom the mother had left them. As part of the DHR safety plan, they were placed in the custody of the maternal grandparents, and permanent legal and physical custody in June 2008.

In June 2010 the maternal grandparents filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother and father, and the Juvenile Court of Morgan County entered judgments terminating said rights. The mother and father appealed.

In its analysis, the Court of Civil Appeals reiterated the standard for termination of parental rights, subject to Ala Code 1975 12-15-319, which provides that the juvenile court must have “clear and convincing evidence” that the parents of a child are “unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child, or that the conduct or condition of the parents renders them unable to properly care for the child and that the conduct or condition is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future” before it can terminate parental rights. Here, the facts showed that the mother and father were improving their situations, wanted a relationship with the children, and that terminating their parental rights would further no real purpose, as the children were all adjusted and doing well.

Once again, terminating a parent’s parental rights remains one of the heaviest burdens to meet in almost any area of the law.

Read the full opinion here: