Criminal Law for Kids


He Did WHAT?!

This is the most common reaction by parents when a police officer shows up on their doorstep with a hand on their child’s shoulder.

All children make mistakes and that’s just how they learn valuable life lessons. Unfortunately, some of those mistakes have long lasting consequences that outweigh any valuable life lesson that they may have learned.

Children Aren’t Guilty

Before we talk about their guilt, we have to clarify who qualifies as a child. Most people assume that you’re a child unless you’ve reached your 18th birthday. However, under Texas Law, a child is

generally defined as someone who at least 10 years old and less than 17 years old.

According to Texas Law, children aren’t prosecuted according to our criminal procedures like adults are; instead, their law is found under the Texas Family Code. Adults are found guilty of committing crimes, but children are found to have engaged in delinquent conduct.

For example: In the adult system, if someone steals something, they can be found guilty of theft. In the juvenile system, on the other hand, if the child steals something then they can be found to have engaged in delinquent conduct; that conduct being theft.

How to Protect Children During an Investigation

Even though you likely aren’t an attorney, there are steps you can take to help protect your children’s rights until you can speak with an attorney. Do not be afraid to inform the police if you want to invoke your child’s right to remain silent, that you or your child wants an attorney present during any questioning, and that you or your child do not consent to any searches.

Juvenile Records Do Not Disappear at Age 18

There is a common misperception that juvenile records automatically disappear or are destroyed when the child turns 18. There are processes available to have them destroyed when the child turns 18, 21, and 31, but it depends on the adjudication by the court and type of crime the child was found to be delinquent for.

There is a process where some offenses are automatically certified for restricted access, but this isn’t an option for all cases and depends on the type of crime the child was found to be delinquent for and the child’s subsequent record.

–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,


Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Criminal Defense & Family Law Divisions

1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309

Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479

[email protected]