Much like Tennessee, Louisiana treats juveniles charged with a crime different from adults. A number of factors affect the possible outcomes, penalties and even the specific procedural guidelines of each case.
FINS cases versus delinquent cases
Two main forms of juvenile matters exist within the Louisiana juvenile system. Families In Need of Services (FINS) cases are matters which are not crimes for adults like truancy or habitual runaways, and FINS cases also include all crimes committed by offenders under the age of 10. Delinquency cases involve juveniles over the age of 10 facing charges of violating a criminal statute.
These juvenile issues can have lasting effects on your child’s future, and it is important to be represented by an attorney throughout the juvenile court process. If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, the court will provide you with a public defender to represent your child.
It’s important to realize that there are significant differences in the juvenile justice system when compared with the adult criminal justice process. The most notable is the complete lack of a jury. Judges preside over all cases and have the final say in both adjudication and disposition. It is also a major departure in that judges must assign the least restrictive disposition appropriate for cases in which your child receives an adjudication of delinquency.
In order to accomplish this directive of least restrictive disposition, certain diversion programs are available that your defense attorney should make you aware of. An Informal Adjustment Agreement (IAA) is an agreement all parties enter into prior to any trial, and it will involve certain restrictions and other treatment requirements. If completed successfully, then the court will dismiss all charges; however, a violation of the terms of the agreement leads to the district attorney filing formal charges.
A Deferred Disposition Agreement (DDA) takes place after an adjudication of delinquency. Upon successful completion, the court will set aside the adjudication. Failure to comply with the agreement results in the application of any disposition assigned by the court.