Youth Court Defense/School Disciplinary Hearing Defense

Our practice also includes the defense of juveniles who have been investigated for or charged with either delinquent acts or CHINS (Child in Need of Supervision) offenses in the Mississippi Youth Court System.

Under Mississippi law, a child should be charged as a juvenile in Youth Court if he/she is accused of most misdemeanors and has not yet reached his/her 18th birthday. A child should also be charged as a juvenile in Youth Court if he/she is accused of a felony and has not yet reached his/her 18th birthday. However, there are specific offenses and situations in which a juvenile under the age of 18 who is charged with a felony will be charged in adult court, rather than Youth Court. Also, a Youth Court judge, in his discretion, has the authority to transfer to adult court any case (misdemeanor or felony) if the juvenile defendant has reached the age of 13. Furthermore, currently all DUI and other traffic offenses, as well as all hunting and fishing offenses, are always handled in adult court. It may be possible to transfer felony charges of juveniles from adult court to youth court.


Additionally, a child may be charged in Youth Court with a CHINS (Child in Need of Supervision) offense. CHINS charges include: habitually missing school without valid excuse, running away from home, habitually disobeying the lawful commands of his/her parents, and engaging in incorrigible behavior that does not rise to the level of a criminal offense. Furthermore, a child under the age of 10 who commits any crime must be charged with a CHINS violation, rather than a delinquent offense.


Youth Court also has jurisdiction in cases in which the Department of Human Services alleges that a child has been abused or neglected. Often, the State is seeking to take custody of the child from the parent. Although the parent is not charged with a crime in Youth Court, any testimony or statements made to anyone (other than the adult's attorney or spouse), whether in court or not, can and will later be used by the District Attorney to prosecute felony charges against the adult in Circuit Court. In fact, even a parent who is not accused of abuse or neglect can, and will, be prosecuted for criminal neglect if the State believes that he or she did not do enough to prevent or report the abuse/neglect.


Often the various school systems in northern Mississippi will conduct disciplinary hearings in response to alleged misbehavior both at school and elsewhere. A common practice is to suspend the student from school for three days, and then conduct a hearing to determine whether the student should be expelled from school. The parents and student involved have a right to legal representation at all stages of the proceedings, and they should exercise that right. Many alternatives to expulsion exist. Schools systems that accept federal and state grant money are required to provide many of these alternatives, but parents are not always made aware of those options. Also, state and federal laws restrict the disciplinary steps that schools can take, despite the belief of some teachers and administrators that the school has final say regarding all discipline matters.


From 1999 through 2008, this firm was the Youth Court Prosecutor for DeSoto County, Mississippi, handling more than 3,500 juvenile cases. During the 21 years prior to that, James D. Franks defended juveniles in over 5,000 cases in DeSoto, Tate, Marshall, Panola, Tunica, Lafayette, and other counties in northern Mississippi. Who better to represent you or your child than a firm that has been on both sides of the courtroom? We know the law and the participants of the Youth Court system. No other firm can offer you this level of experience. Contact me today to discuss your child's Youth Court matter.