Disposition Hearings in Juvenile Court: Understanding and Navigating the Texas Juvenile Justice System, Part 5
In the previous four posts I've covered what happens when a child gets arrested for committing a crime in Texas. From pre arrest warning to diversion to deferred prosecution and finally to plea agreement or trial, otherwise known as the adjudication hearing.
So, what happens if your child proceeds to trial and is found to have committed the offense or offenses charged by the prosecution? In Texas Juvenile proceedings are bifurcated into what might be referred to as the guilt phase (adjudication) and the punishment phase (disposition) and despite all the language about in the Code about the multiple purposes of a disposition including the welfare of the child - make no mistake in the real world this is a punishment phase.
The only question to be answered at the disposition hearing is what to do with the child and there is no right to a jury in this phase of the proceedings - unless the child faces a determinate sentence. There are however several important rights that you as a parent or interested party should know about. For instance, at the conclusion of the disposition hearing the parent has the right to speak to the court and give a statement concerning the strengths of the child or the needs of the child and the family and any other information to help the court make the best decision for the family and child. This is important because often the parent has information that would otherwise not be considered by the court resulting in a harsher punishment. it's imperative that you work with your attorney on what to say before the hearing.
The options for the court in making its disposition are probation - this may include removal from the home (Family Code section 54.04). TYC commitment (Family Code section 54.04). Driver's license suspension (Family Code section 54.042) restitution, sex offender registration and SDT testing. Additionally, if you are the parent of the child the court may make orders affecting your conduct enforceable by contempt of court proceedings.