Formal Court Proceedings
The majority of juvenile cases are handled using a delinquency petition. If a child is found by a judge or jury to have engaged in delinquent conduct, the juvenile court has several dispositional options.
A child may be placed on probation for any term not to exceed the child's 18th birthday. The court may, before the probationary period ends, extend the probation until the child's 18th birthday. The Family Code provides that the court may place a child on probation in the child's own home / in the custody of a relative or other fit person, in a suitable foster home, or in a suitable public or private institution or agency.
Texas Youth Commission (TYC) Commitment
A child may be committed to the care, control, and custody of the TYC if the child is adjudicated for a felony offense. All commitments to TYC, except under the Determinate Sentencing Act, are for an indeterminate term not to exceed the child's 19th birthday.
TYC Determinate Sentencing
If a prosecutor chooses to invoke the option of determinate sentencing, the grand jury must approve the petition charging the juvenile with the offense. If the court or jury finds at the conclusion of an adjudication hearing that the child committed one of the specified offenses, the child may be committed to the TYC, with a possible transfer to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for up to 40 years, depending on the offense.
Certification as an Adult
For many serious or chronic felony offenders, certification as an adult may be the most appropriate option. If a child is certified to stand trial as an adult, the child faces the same range of punishment that an adult would face for the same crime, except that a juvenile cannot receive the death penalty for an offense committed before turning 17 years of age. A child who was 14 at the time of the commission of the offense may be certified for capital felonies, aggravated controlled substance felonies, or first-degree felonies. For all other felonies, the child must have been 15 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense.