The New Mexico Delinquency Act creates three different types of juvenile offenders. The juvenile criminal offender's classification is very important, because it determines whether they may be tried as an adult. This in turn will determine the possible penalties they can receive.
A "serious youthful offender" is a child from 15 to 18 years old that is charged with first-degree murder. Once charged with first degree murder, they are no longer a juvenile under the law and are automatically sentenced as adults if they are convicted.
A "youthful offender" is a child aged 14 to 18 and found guilty of specified felony offenses (like second degree murder, assault with intent to commit violent felony, kidnapping, aggravated battery, criminal sexual penetration and robbery); who has three prior, separate felony convictions in the past three; or is 14 and found guilty of first degree murder. A youthful offender may receive either a juvenile or adult sanction.
Finally, a "delinquent offender" is a child that commits a less serious crime. The child is tried in Children's Court under the Children's Court Rules. A delinquent offender will receive juvenile sanctions under the Children's Code.
A recent case before the New Mexico Court of Appeals, New Mexico v. Nanco, examined whether a child charged with murder but only found guilty of a lesser crime should receive credit for the time they serve before sentencing.
The defendant was a fifteen-year-old who was arrested because police believed he was involved in a fatal shooting. He was charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of tampering with evidence related to the shooting. Due to his age and charges, the defendant was classified as a serious youthful offender and tried as an adult. After a trial, he was found not guilty of first-degree murder and one of the evidence tampering charges. However, the jury found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence.
The defendant's charges meant that his classification would be changed to a delinquent offender. Under New Mexico law, a serious youthful offender would be entitled to a credit for the time served prior to sentencing, but a youthful offender or a delinquent offender would not. In New Mexico, juveniles do not receive credit for time served. The defendant argued that he should receive credit for the time served, because he was initially categorized as a serious youthful offender. The court disagreed.
The New Mexico statute allowing pre-sentence credit specifically states that the credit applies against a sentence. However, a delinquent offender, like the defendant, is not "convicted" or "sentenced." Under New Mexico law, the defendant was "adjudicated" and received a "disposition." Since the defendant was a juvenile and was not sentenced, the pre-sentence credit law cannot apply to him.
In addition, New Mexico seeks to rehabilitate juveniles in the criminal justice system. In order to do so, juveniles are treated differently from adults. One important difference is the way consequences are determined, with the possibility that a sentence can be cut short or extended based upon the needs of the child and the public. By allowing pre-sentence credit, the juvenile's rehabilitation could be cut short at a critical time, harming both the child and the public at large.
The juvenile criminal process is somewhat different than the adult criminal process. Because of the differences, it is typically beneficial have an attorney experienced in the juvenile criminal courts. If your child is involved in the juvenile criminal courts in the Albuquerque area, feel free to contact us at Collins & Collins, P.C.
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