Kirk Waible: Experienced Juvenile Defense Attorney

Rights of Colorado Children Accused of Juvenile Delinquency

There is a knock at your front door. A police officer smiles, introduces herself, and asks in a very friendly manner if she can come in. Once inside your home, she tells you that she is here because your child's name has come up in an investigation but is vague about the specifics. She tells you that she would like to talk to your child. Even further, she says that it's best that she talks to your son or daughter alone and by the way could she take a look at your child's cell phone? The account is in your name, right? The police officer rationalizes separating you and your child stating that a teenager will be more likely to open up outside the presence of Mom and Dad.

You don't know what to do and may be experiencing a range of emotions. In the moment you may be angry or disappointed in your child. You might be confident that there is no way your child who is on the honor roll or the captain of their school sports team could have done anything illegal. We are conditioned to trust police officers and authority figures in general. We want to teach our kids to be accountable and tell the truth. The officer was really nice to to you and she's already in your house.

This is a critical moment in your child's life that plays out too often across the communities of Northern Colorado. Law Enforcement is highly trained in attaining statements from suspects. Children are especially vulnerable in response to persuasive techniques that are completely legal for the police to use. The Colorado Legislature recognized this power imbalance; in May 2023 HB 23-1042 was passed and signed by the Governor that requires that all custodial interrogations of children must be electronically recorded. Also, this law importantly prohibits state agents from attaining a statement or admission from a child as a result of custodial interrogation by the communication of any untruthful information or belief. The key word in this proscription and prohibition is "custodial interrogation". "Custodial interrogation" means any interrogation of a person while such person is in custody. "Custody" has a broader definition and means restraint on a person's freedom such that a reasonable person would believe he or she is in police custody to the degree associated with a formal arrest. What constitutes "Custody" has been subject to decades of litigation in the Colorado and United States Supreme Court. However, it is generally accepted that when a person is in their home, they have given a police officer consent to be in their residence, the police officer has not said the person is under arrest, and the person has not been placed in handcuffs the person is not in custody. 

Here's the point. When they are interrogating your child in your home, the police do not have to tell your son or daughter they have a right to remain silent, or have an experienced juvenile defense attorney present during the interview. The police do not have to electronically record your child's statements. The police can be untruthful in the way they pose their questions. THIS IS BECAUSE YOUR CHILD IN NOT IN POLICE CUSTODY WITHIN YOUR HOME AND CONSEQUENTLY THEIR STATEMENTS ARE PRESUMED TO BE VOLUNTARY. 

At High Country Defense & Consulting, experienced juvenile defense attorney Kirk Waible understands that children need a strong defense. Never agree to let your child speak to the police before you and they are able to speak to an attorney in confidence who can give you strategic counsel on what to do.  Anytime a child is involved in the juvenile justice system, their future is at risk. If you are a parent, contact us today to schedule a consultation. Keeping your child's record clean and limiting their involvement in the Colorado Juvenile Justice System is imperative.

Juvenile Detention in Colorado 

The placement of children in a detention facility exacts a negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of a child, and lengthy detention may make it more likely that the juvenile will reoffend. Children who are detained are more likely to penetrate deeper into the juvenile justice system than similar juveniles who are not detained, and community-based alternatives to detention should be based on the principle of using the least-restrictive setting possible and returning a child or juvenile to his or her home, family, or other responsible adult whenever possible consistent with public safety.

Therefore, Colorado limits the use of secure detention to only those juveniles who pose a substantial risk of serious harm to others or a substantial risk of flight from prosecution. There must also be a finding that community-based alternatives to detention are insufficient to reasonably mitigate that risk. Flight from prosecution is distinguished from simple failure to appear and must generally be evidenced by a demonstrated record of repeat, recent willful failures to appear at a scheduled court appearance.  If your child is detained in a Larimer or Jackson County juvenile delinquency case, they will be placed in one of two detention facilities: Platte Valley or Prairie Vista Youth Services Center. If your child is detained at one of these facilities, your child has a right to have a hearing before a District Court Magistrate or Judge to review the detention decision as soon as possible. Experienced juvenile defense attorney Kirk Waible can assist your child at a detention hearing by advocating for the release of your son or daughter to a parent or other legal guardian by presenting specific facts to the Court that mitigate the risk to community safety or risk of flight from prosecution. If your child has been detained on a Larimer or Jackson County juvenile delinquency case contact us today to help bring them home. 

Juveniles Tried as Adults in Colorado 

When a child defendant commits a crime, they are usually then tried as a juvenile. In certain circumstances, however, their case can be transferred to the adult system.

juvenile may be charged by the direct filing of an information in the district court or by indictment only if the juvenile is sixteen years of age or older at the time of the commission of the alleged offense and:

  • Is alleged to have committed a class 1 or class 2 felony, or a violent sexual assault. 
  • Is accused of a felony crime of violence or sexual assault on a child and has been previously adjudicated in juvenile court of any felony offense or been convicted in an adult direct file proceeding prior. 

After a juvenile case has been charged by direct filing of information or by an indictment in district court, an experienced juvenile defense attorney will file a motion to transfer the case back to juvenile court. 

The proceeding for a District Court Judge to consider returning the case to juvenile court where the child will not be charged as an adult is called a reverse transfer hearing. At a reverse transfer hearing the District Court will consider the following factors:

  • The seriousness of the alleged offense and whether the protection of the community requires response or consequence beyond that afforded by juvenile penalties,
  • Whether the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated, or willful manner,
  • Whether the alleged offense was against persons or property, greater weight being given to offenses against persons,
  • The age of the juvenile and maturity of the juvenile, as determined by considerations of the juvenile's home, environment, emotional attitude, and pattern of living,
  • The juvenile's record and previous history in prior court-related matters,
  • The juvenile's current and past mental health status, as evidenced by relevant mental health or psychological assessments or screenings that are made available to both the district attorney and defense counsel,
  • The likelihood of the juvenile's rehabilitation by use of the sentencing options available in the juvenile courts and adult courts,
  • The interest of the community in the imposition of a punishment commensurate with the gravity of the offense,
  • The impact of the offense on the victim,
  • Whether the juvenile was previously committed to the juvenile division of youth services following an adjudication for a delinquent act that constitutes a felony,
  • Whether the juvenile used, or possessed and threatened the use of, a deadly weapon in the commission of the delinquent act. 

If a juvenile is not transferred back to juvenile court and is convicted in an adult district court, the child can be sentenced to the adult Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) or to the Youth Offender System (YOS). If your child is being charged as an adult, he or she faces an extremely challenging legal problem. Contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney if your child faces a direct file into adult district court.


Collateral Consequences of a Colorado Juvenile Offense

In addition to the penalty imposed by a court, there can also be collateral consequences for children adjudicated for juvenile offenses. 

A juvenile adjudication can disrupt a defendant's schooling, especially if they serve time in juvenile detention. Involvement in the juvenile justice system can also affect their access to education more generally. Some schools may not accept students for in-person learning if they have certain charges, and many colleges ask applicants to disclose juvenile records. 

While many people believe juvenile criminal records “disappear” once someone becomes an adult, this isn't the case in Colorado. While the Colorado legislature has significantly streamlined the process of expunging juvenile records after a child's sentence has been completed, there are certain offenses that are not eligible for expungement. 

Law enforcement and courts can access juvenile records when dealing with an adult defendant, which can increase both the category of offense they are charged with and the severity of their sentence. 

Juvenile adjudications for certain offenses may also require a child to register as a sex offender or restrict them from owning a firearm as an adult. If your child is facing these serious collateral consequences contact us to get an experienced juvenile defense attorney on your child's side.