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  • 5.0/5.0

    Excellent attorney who not only has superior legal skills but is very experienced in the area of digital technology.

    — Peer

  • 5.0/5.0

    I have known Lisa Polansky in a professional capacity for almost 25 years. We practiced together in the Los Angeles County Public Defender Office. Ms Polansky is one of the best lawyers with whom I have had the pleasure of working. She is d...
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    — Peer

  • 5.0/5.0

    I worked with Janene for years. She represents her clients zealously and in an ethical manner. I hold her ability in very high regard. She also takes the the time to share her knowledge and improve other lawyers.

    — Peer

  • 5.0/5.0

    Lisa Polansky is a creative and experienced attorney. She thinks outside the box and works tirelessly on behalf of her clients. I have worked with her on several cases and have turned to her for advice many times. She serves her clients wit...
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  • 5.0/5.0

    Lisa is a very tough, intelligent, well respected lawyer.

    — Peer

Why You Should Take Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings Seriously

Our society and our laws treat the magic age of eighteen as a bright line in many ways. When it comes to the justice system, we have two separate courts for children and adults.  While it may seem that any trouble you get into as a child should be inconsequential, the effects of having a juvenile record can be serious and follow you well into adulthood.  A common misconception is that juvenile records are completely sealed, but privacy rights in juvenile proceedings have been substantially eroded. And, expungement of a juvenile record is neither automatic nor simple. Therefore, it is important to address accusations of violations in juvenile court with seriousness. That means mounting an effective defense, including hiring an attorney.

Juvenile delinquency adjudications can be used against a person in his or her adulthood to keep them out of jobs and schools, to increase punishments for later criminal convictions in adult court, to deny eligibility for public benefits, to affect immigration status, to deny custody of children, to deny or revoke a driver’s license, and to affect many other rights and privileges. The Colorado State Public Defender published a comprehensive report in 2014 which details exactly how juvenile adjudications affect the rest of a person’s life.  These so-called collateral consequences are generally not required information for a child in delinquency proceedings, and without competent, effective legal counsel, a defendant may be in for a nasty surprise many years later.

Since 1967, juveniles facing legal proceedings that would be considered crimes if they were adults have been entitled to most of the same constitutional due process rights as adult defendants. This includes the right to an attorney. But in many states, even the public defender’s office does not take juvenile court seriously. Public defenders who handle juvenile cases many times brand new, inexperienced lawyers, or are being “punished” by higher-ups for some transgression. In 2012, the National Juvenile Defender Coalition published a report on legal representation in juvenile delinquency proceedings in Colorado. The report was critical of Colorado’s treatment of juveniles in delinquency proceedings and especially the accessibility and adequacy of juvenile defenders.  In response, the Colorado General Assembly has made several positive changes in improving both access and quality of representation for children.  For example, all children are now appointed counsel at detention hearings and are ensured the right to an attorney throughout their case.  Appointed counsel means a public defender or other attorney paid by the state. The law provides that a child is ensured this counsel at all stages if he or she cannot afford to pay for a private attorney, or even if his or her parents refuse to provide the necessary finances for private counsel. Otherwise, the child has the right to retain a private attorney.

Despite some advances in protecting the rights of children in delinquency proceedings, the courts still tend to take a paternalistic approach to juveniles in delinquency proceedings and may insist on promoting the perceived best interests of the child, even when that means violating the child’s constitutional rights. For instance, a judge or prosecutor may want a child to take a guilty plea in order to get access to essential services regardless of whether the child is guilty. As noted above, a delinquency record can have long-lasting and severe effects on a person’s life, despite short-term benefits like therapy and rehabilitation programs. It is the role of the juvenile defender to continue to remind the court and other participants that a child, just like an adult defendant, is entitled to due process under the law.  For this reason, a juvenile defendant is best served by an attorney who not only provides a competent defense, but who will also provide a strong voice to protect their individual rights.

Although the state of juvenile defense has improved due to efforts in recent years, more children in Colorado should take advantage of the right to counsel. The costs are too high to navigate juvenile delinquency proceedings without effective representation.  Investing in a competent defense during juvenile delinquency proceedings can result in avoiding a huge number of serious consequences later in life.