The juvenile justice system handles criminal cases for youth under the age of majority, which is 18 in most states. Most cases involving juveniles are tried in juvenile-specific courts. However, there are some exceptions, and those exceptions along with everyone over legal age are tried in standard criminal courts for adults. One of the features setting the juvenile system apart from the adult system, is that the sentencing differences between adult and juvenile cases is significant.
In most states, a juvenile is between ages 10 and 18 years of age, and in some states the age cap is set at 16 years of age. As previously mentioned, exceptions exist for who is considered a juvenile. In particular, a juvenile who commits a crime that is very serious in nature may be tried as an adult, regardless of age.
In most of these cases, the minor is found to have full mental capacity in understanding their actions and the consequences to follow. Some states use the “once an adult, always an adult,” premise wherein a minor will always be charged as an adult after their first conviction as an adult.
The juvenile court system focuses more on the rehabilitation of juveniles, and offers more sentencing options as compared to the adult criminal system. Some of these options keep youth out of jail and within the community, usually in community service, diversion, and counseling programs. There are variations between states, but generally:
Though the two systems have several differences, there are some similarities. The most significant being that both systems retain many of the same rights, including:
After the adjudicated hearing, the judge will decide the disposition of the case as to whether the juvenile is guilty or not guilty of committing a delinquent act. If guilty, the judge will take the juvenile’s best interests into consideration, and follow certain guidelines to provide a sentence with a focus on rehabilitation.
If you or your loved one are accused of committing a delinquent act, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. The juvenile justice system can present unique challenges not normally seen in the adult criminal system, and having an attorney represent your best interests is imperative.
Last Modified: 09-28-2017 03:05 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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