Tahlequah Attorney BlogCan Juveniles Be Charged In City Court?

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Video Transcribed: Can juveniles be prosecuted under city ordinances? Well, it depends. My name is Ryan Cannonie, I am the Tahlequah criminal defense attorney for the Wirth Law Office in Tahlequah.

And a question that used to come up when I was a prosecutor, and it’s also come up as well on this site as a defense attorney is whether or not a municipality or city or town can prosecute someone under 18 for violation of city ordinances.

Now, before we go too much further, I want to say we’re not talking about traffic citations. Yes, cities can prosecute juveniles for speeding, running a stop sign, parking, whatever you want to say on that.

Those types of things can be prosecuted in city court, even if the person is under 18. And also, when we start talking about municipal and city ordinances, remember they can only do misdemeanors, but they can’t do all misdemeanors.

For example, cities used to be able to do a DUI prosecution. Back in 2016, I believe, the law changed and only Oklahoma City and Tulsa, because those are special city court. Can do prosecutions for DUIs. About that same time, drugs went from felony … possession of drugs went from felony to a misdemeanor.

A lot of cities have put in ordinances for possession of controlled dangerous substances. If you get a 17-year-old, your 17-year-old kid gets caught out on skate park or somewhere in possession of a little bit of marijuana, then technically it may be a violation under not only state law, but also under city ordinances.

Now, if a city wants to prosecute juveniles, they have to actually take some extra steps. The first thing is, it depends on how much the population density is.

If you have a city or town with a population under 25,000, then they make an agreement upon notice with the district court for the county there. And the agreement is basically, “Hey, we’re going to start doing juveniles under our ordinances, and everyone’s okay with that.”

If it’s over 25,000, this agreement has to be approved by not just the district court, but the district attorney’s office as well. They have to get permission from both of these other entities and an agreement like a formal contract is written up that states out everything that the city is going to do.

Because, when you’re talking about juveniles these are normally, at least in state court these are kept confidential. But even beyond that, there’s a lot of other things that go on to juvenile cases, juvenile delinquent cases.

For instance, in juvenile delinquent cases if they are housed, let’s say they’re being held in a facility, they’re incarcerated as it were until trial or until something’s going on. There are all types of requirements that they are kept separate from the adult inmates.

That they have their own different, they call it sight and sound, meaning that they neither have sight nor sound of the adults. A lot of times they have to have their own specialized areas. And so there’s a lot of care taken into this type of thing.

Cities also have to follow that. They can’t just throw a juvenile offender in with their normal city jail population. Per the statute, their agreement has to mention that they will not do that. Here are all the things we’re going to do to keep juveniles safe from adult offenders. That’s the big thing is they have to fill out one of these agreements. If a city or municipality does not have one of these, and there is a lot that doesn’t, then they cannot prosecute juvenile offenses.

A lot of smaller towns just over the course of my time as a prosecutor. I worked all over Eastern Oklahoma, and there were smaller towns that would occasionally … you have an officer catch some kids with some marijuana, catch some kids shoplifting and try to run it through their city courts.

But whenever a defense attorney would come in and start looking, they would find that there was no inner local cooperation agreement, so the municipal court had no jurisdiction, had no authority to do anything with those criminal cases.

In that case those situations, the case would be sent up to district court. The Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs Bureau runs through its policies and then either make a recommendation to or not to charge to the district attorney.

If you find yourself in this situation, or if you find your kids are in this situation, and you have questions of whether or not they can be charged by the town that is charging them if it should have been sent a different way. When it’s sent up to OJA, not all of those cases get charged.

I will say that. Whenever I was on the other side when I was a prosecutor, there were a couple of times that cities sent charges up. Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs Bureau personnel did their policies. They did their intake.

They did their risk of re-offense, all that type of stuff, and recommended that these kids not be charged but be put on a little probationary period where they would maybe do some community service and then wouldn’t have to deal with the courts.

It’s not always the worst thing that it gets taken out of the city and sent up to the state. But if you or your kids find yourselves in these situations, then please give us a call. We’ll do a free consultation, see what’s going on in your case. If you have other questions, you can go to tahlequahattorney.com. Use the webform, send us a message, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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