Local attorney explains how juvenile criminal cases are handled


Their names are never released, their criminal record is never public. The courts handle children differently.

Attorney Emily Fretwell said in Missouri, all juvenile records are sealed.

"There are a few exceptions," Fretwell said. "Statistical purposes, which would not include names, and anything requiring a court order."

Fretwell practices family law with the Call & Gentry law firm in Jefferson City.

After a student was accused of bringing a gun and ammunition into a Centralia school Friday, Fretwell explained how the juvenile office would generally approach the case.

"The juvenile office can keep the child for up to 24 hours while they do an assessment to determine the seriousness of the offense, or what kind of mental health or physical needs the child has," Fretwell said. "This is to see whether or not they need to file charges or detain the child."

Fretwell said the office has 24 hours to file charges. If detained, the child would remain in custody until his or her hearing.

Depending on the severity of the crime, children can be tried as adults if the child is certified as one. Children 12 years and older can be certified for felony crimes, according to state law.

"With an offense as serious as bringing guns, the juvenile office might look at certifying them as an adult."

In Missouri, once the juvenile turns 18-year-old , the juvenile record is sealed. Fretwell said if he or she wants to buy a gun or apply for a job, the record won't show up.

"The theory is that when people make mistakes when they're young, they don't want them to haunt them forever," Fretwell said. "It's a slippery slope to put juvenile records out there for purposes like guns, but not on a job application."

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