Adults in Alabama are subject to two types of court: Criminal or Civil. In Civil Court some other party is seeking to either enforce an agreement (compel performance), prevent you from doing them some type of harm (nuisance) to their person or property, seek injunctive relief, or estopped (preventing another party from doing something).
The goal of Civil Court is more often than not about being made whole through the injured party receiving money damages or some type of injunctive relief.
Criminal Court’s sole purpose in the State of Alabama is to punish and/or seek retribution for violating the criminal laws of the Great State of Alabama.
A minor in Alabama is anyone who has not yet reached the age of majority. The age of Majority in Alabama is 19; all minors are subject to the jurisdiction and oversight of the Juvenile Court(s).
Instead of having two divisions like “adult court” there are three divisions for Juveniles.
The First Division of Juvenile Court is Delinquency Court. That is when a minor has been accused of delinquency by violating the Alabama Criminal Code.
There is only one Criminal Code in our state, and it is found in Title 13A of the Code of Alabama, 1975. These laws apply equally to adults as well as minors; meaning that the state must prove that a minor violated the law with the same “burden” as though they were trying an adult.
However, unlike adult court the goal of Delinquency Court is not to punish or seek retribution for a minor. It is to rehabilitate and correct delinquent behavior. To that end, the state has allowed that a juvenile’s record will be sealed upon achieving his/her majority and will start adulthood with a “clean slate.” Juvenile adjudications are not convictions and as such minors will not have a record if found delinquent during their minority.
The Second Division of Juvenile Court is Dependency Court.
This is more analogous to Family Court, in that someone is petitioning the Court for custody of a minor child because the parents are either unwilling or unable to execute their parental responsibilities and pose a danger to the child if he/she continues to live under their care/custody/control.
There are different standards which apply for cases involving a juvenile which has been removed from his parents custody vs. not having been removed from his/her parents custody previously.
It is important to have an attorney that understands these differences and will be able to adequately navigate the legal waters of Dependency Court.
The Final Division of Juvenile Court is CHINS/Runaway Court.
This is the Court when a Child in Need of Supervision (CHiNS) and his/her parents are brought before the Court or the child has ran away from his/her home or placement.
This division of court is best described as when a parent or legal guardian cannot control their child/ward and the parent/legal guardian is requesting the assistance of the Court; most often times these CHINS cases involve truancy cases and/or children who are at risk of becoming delinquents.
If you or a child have become subject to the Juvenile Court, either via Dependency, Delinquency, or regarding CHINS, and want legal assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our offices immediately to schedule a consultation.
If you fear for the health/safety/welfare of a child/children and would like to petition to court for the custody of that child/children, whether you are a relative or not, please call today