Juvenile First Offender Program in Texas
Texas Family Code Sec. 52.031 allows juvenile boards across the state to establish first offender programs for the referral and disposition of children aged 10 to 16 taken into custody or accused before the filing of a criminal charge of:
- Conduct indicating a need for supervision;
- A Class C misdemeanor, other than a traffic offense; or
- Delinquent conduct other than conduct that constitutes a first, second, or third-degree felony, an aggravated controlled substance felony, a capital felony, a state jail felony or misdemeanor involving violence to a person, or the use of or possession of a firearm, location-restricted knife, club, or a prohibited weapon, as described in the Texas Penal Code.
Texas’ juvenile first-offender program was designed to give children who have never before been in trouble with the law a second chance. The program’s purpose is to divert juveniles from the justice system and reduce recidivism.
The adopted guidelines aren’t considered mandatory, but if accepted, the program offers youths the opportunity to keep their records clean.
The first-offender program gives minors a chance to start over after committing an offense without the presence of a juvenile record.
In this post, we’ll explain the first offender program, how it works, who qualifies, and what it looks like in Tarrant County.
If your child has been referred to the juvenile justice system, an experienced juvenile attorney is invaluable. Varghese Summersett’s juvenile attorney Lisa Herrick is here to help protect their future.
Is the first offender program only for first-time offenders?
Yes. First-offender programs in Texas are just for juveniles who have been taken into custody for the first time.
How is a child referred to Tarrant County’s juvenile first offender program?
An officer must file a written referral to the relevant juvenile agency to refer a juvenile to a first-offender program. The officer must identify the child and specify the grounds for taking the child into custody. Any child referred to the juvenile first offender program can’t be detained by law enforcement custody, per Texas Family Code §52.031(e). The parent, guardian, or another custodian must be notified that the child has been referred to the juvenile first offender program. Participation in a juvenile first offender program is voluntary and must be agreed to by the child and parent or guardian.
According to Texas Family Code, the officer must include in his notice of referral to the juvenile first offender program the following:
- State the grounds for taking the child into custody for conduct described by 52.031 (a) or for accusing the child of an offense described by Subsection (a-1);
- Identify the law enforcement officer or agency to which the child was referred;
- Briefly describe the nature of the program; and
- State that the child’s failure to complete the program will result in the child being referred to the juvenile court for the conduct or a complaint filed with a criminal court for the offense.
Subsection 52.031 (a-1) states “a child accused of a Class C misdemeanor, other than a traffic offense, may be referred to a first offender program established under this section prior to the filing of a complaint with a criminal court.”
Does the first offender program include restitution to the victim or community service?
Juvenile first offender programs may include voluntary restitution to a victim, community service, vocational training, education, counseling, or other rehabilitative services. The program may also require periodic reporting by the child to a designated agency.
What happens if the juvenile completes a first offender program?
If a youth successfully completes a first offender program, the case is closed and won’t be referred to the juvenile court.
What happens if the juvenile fails to complete a first offender program?
If a juvenile fails to complete the first offender program or the child or the child’s parent or guardian terminates the program early, or the child is taken into custody within 90 days of completing the program, they’ll be referred to the juvenile court.
Do law enforcement agencies keep a record of successful first offender programs?
Yes, law enforcement agencies can keep a record of the child’s successful completion of a juvenile first offender program beyond the 90-day destruction period, but only to determine the child’s eligibility to participate in another program. After 90 days, the offense is erased from their record.
Who is eligible for Texas’ juvenile first offender program?
The minor must be aged 10 to 16 and be a first-time offender. Juveniles who commit state jail felonies or misdemeanor offenses not involving violence to a person or the use or possession of a firearm, location-restricted knife, club, or a prohibited weapon, as those terms are defined in the penal code, are eligible for the program, as are juveniles who commit a class C offense, other than a traffic offense.
Who is not eligible for Texas’ juvenile first offender program?
Charges involving assaults, weapons, or sexual crimes resulting in the requirement to register as a sex offender do not qualify for the program.
Juvenile first offender programs in Tarrant County
There are first offender programs available throughout Tarrant County.
The Lena Pope Home in Fort Worth operates the Second Opportunity for Success, a behavioral intervention program. The seven-week program aims to prevent future criminal behavior in first-time juvenile offenders. Intensive counseling and skill-building instruction involve the child and their families to help improve their relationships, school performance, and behavior. Children aged 10-16 must be referred to the program by the appropriate agency. Classes are held on the Lena Pope campus at 3001 Sanguinet Street in Fort Worth.
Has your child been deferred to a first offender program? Call us.
If your child is detained by law enforcement and referred to a juvenile first offender program, you must protect their rights. Varghese Summersett’s Lisa Herrick is one of only three Board Certified juvenile attorneys in Tarrant County. She will fight for your child to ensure the best possible result. Call Lisa for a free consultation at 817-203-2220.