Juvenile Court Procedures

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 What Are Juvenile Crimes?

Juvenile crimes are crimes committed by children or minors (i.e., juveniles) who are usually under the age of 18 (the age requirement varies from state to state).

In some states, it is possible to be charged with a juvenile crime as early as 16 or 17. Also, most states consider a child who is 14 or older to have the capacity to commit a crime intentionally.

7-year-olds and younger are generally considered incapable of intentionally committing a crime. This is because they are considered too young to understand the difference between right and wrong. There is, however, a possibility that a young child could be held liable for homicide.

Juvenile and adult criminal justice systems differ greatly. Separate laws and rules govern them. However, some factors may lead to a juvenile being tried and processed as an adult.

This includes when:

  • A crime is particularly shocking or outrageous; or
  • If the juvenile is a repeat offender.

Juveniles may be tried as adults for crimes such as rape, homicide, or theft. This means that they can face harsher penalties and will have less chance to redeem themselves via an alternative form of punishment.

Who Is Considered a Juvenile?

As mentioned above, the laws on juvenile offenders vary by state. Juvenile offenders are typically those between the ages of ten and eighteen. Juveniles are anyone under eighteen but must be at least ten years old to enter the juvenile justice system. Depending on the state, an offender may be treated as an adult as young as sixteen or seventeen in other states.

Juveniles and adults are treated differently based on a variety of factors. In some cases, a court system may treat them as adults depending on the crime’s severity. An individual of juvenile age who commits murder may be treated as an adult and sent to the adult criminal justice system.

Offender records are also taken into account. Juveniles with a lengthy record of delinquent activity may be tried as adults. The decision may also influence whether the juvenile is willing to participate in rehabilitative activities and whether their parents are involved.

Are Juvenile Court Procedures Different Than Adult Court Procedures?

Yes, juvenile court procedures are organized to protect and rehabilitate minors who are facing juvenile criminal charges or non-offenders in need of court intervention. There is a general consensus in the public that persons under the age of 18 may be less capable of taking responsibility for their actions than adults. Juveniles, however, may often be rehabilitated much more successfully than their adult counterparts since their character is still developing.

In juvenile court procedures, the focus shifts from punishment to preserving the juvenile defendant’s future ability to function in society. These principles are reflected in juvenile court procedures. Juvenile criminal systems are also somewhat less formal than adult criminal systems.

What Happens If a Minor Commits a Crime?

Rather than being arrested after committing a criminal offense, juveniles are usually informally detained. As soon as they are in custody, authorities will draft a petition outlining the jurisdictional authority of the juvenile court. A notice of the offense and the reasons for any court appearances are also provided in the petition to the juvenile and their family.

Juvenile court judges will adjudicate the case when the juvenile appears in court. A disposition or judgment will be issued detailing the possible consequences for the juvenile defendant. For instance, juvenile offenders may be ordered to perform community service or pay a fine. Juveniles may spend time in juvenile halls.

Generally, juvenile criminal court records are sealed and cannot be accessed by the public in order to protect minors.

Is Sentencing Different for Juvenile Criminal Cases?

As an alternative to jail time, juvenile court judges have much more discretion in prescribing rehabilitative measures. For juvenile criminals, judges often prescribe the least detrimental sentencing option.

A juvenile’s behavior may be closely monitored while serving a sentence to determine whether they have been successfully rehabilitated. Juvenile defendants may be released early if they demonstrate good standing and compliance with sentencing requirements. They may also prescribe alternative sentencing measures at the outset.

Once a juvenile offender has completed their sentencing requirements, their criminal record can be sealed or expunged once they reach the majority (18 years old in most states). The sealing of juvenile records is meant to protect the person’s identity and reputation and assist them in reintegrating into society.

Is the Juvenile Court a Separate Entity from Adult Courts?

A juvenile court can be organized in one of three ways:

  • As its own separate, independently operating entity
  • As part of a lower court institution, such as a municipal court or city court
  • As part of a higher level court institution, such as a superior court or circuit court

Juveniles have the same rights whether a juvenile court is a separate entity or part of another court system. Court dates and the length of trials can often be affected by a juvenile court’s affiliation with another court.

What Should I Do If I Am a Juvenile Accused of a Crime?

A juvenile court will decide what punishment is appropriate for a minor. Instead of simply punishing the minor, these consequences are intended to educate and rehabilitate them. Minors have a greater variety of alternative sentencing options than adults.

A juvenile court may impose punishment on a minor ranging from an educational lecture to incarceration in a juvenile detention facility. The slang term “juvie” is derived from this.

Some of the legal consequences for being convicted of committing a juvenile crime may include:

  • Detainment by the juvenile court system;
  • Mandatory schooling;
  • Community service;
  • Probation or parole;
  • Significant fines; and
  • Depending on the minor’s age, the conviction could remain on their permanent record for life.

A minor’s likelihood of receiving any of the penalties listed above will depend on the following:

  • The type of crime committed;
  • Whether a weapon was used during the commission of the crime;
  • The extent of injury or damage done by the crime;
  • How their local community and court system react toward the crime in question (in other words, their attitude about the crime);
  • Whether the minor had any prior convictions (i.e., a repeat offender);
  • The circumstances of their home and family life;
  • If the child has any mental health conditions; and
  • Whether the minor was already currently on probation or parole for another crime.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Juvenile Court Procedures?

If you have any questions regarding the procedures in a juvenile criminal case, you should immediately speak with a juvenile lawyer in your area. There are often many differences between juvenile and adult criminal court procedures.

Persons facing juvenile criminal charges can benefit from the advice and representation of an attorney. Explain all the details of the case to the attorney, as juvenile cases can have far-reaching effects on criminal defendants.

Your attorney can provide the proper legal advice and representation needed for such a case. They can also keep you updated regarding any changes in the law that might affect your rights.

Do not allow a juvenile crime to impact your future. Instead, find the right juvenile lawyer for you or your child’s needs through LegalMatch today.

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