A juvenile crime is a violation of criminal laws committed by a person under the age of majority (18 in most states). The juvenile criminal system is much different than the adult system. Legal consequences for juvenile crimes typically aim at rehabilitating and educating the juvenile rather than imposing punishments on them. As a result, there tend to be more sentencing options for juvenile crime than for adult offenders.

What Are the Different Sentencing Options for Juvenile Crime?

Sentencing options for juvenile crime can be classified into two basic categories: incarceration-related options and non-incarceration options. Sentencing options involving some form of incarceration may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Detention in Juvenile Hall: This is where the minor serves their sentence in a juvenile hall facility. This is the traditional sentencing option associated with minors, and usually involves only short-term stays. Probation or parole may be available in many cases
  • House Arrest: This is where the minor is ordered to stay at home, with travel being limited to school, work, etc.
  • Secured Juvenile Facilities: These are similar to juvenile hall except that they are intended for longer terms, sometimes months or years. Also called “camps.”
  • Adult Jail: In cases where the juvenile is tried as an adult, they may also be required to serve their sentence in an adult facility. There is much debate over allowing minors to spend time in adult jail.  In some cases, a judge may order the minor to start out their sentence in a juvenile facility, then be transferred to an adult facility when they reach the age of 18. This is known as a “blended sentence.”
  • Placement: This is where the minor is required to live with a person other than their parent or guardian. This can involve the minor living with a relative, in a foster home, or in a group home.

Sentencing options for juvenile crime also involve alternative measures designed to keep the minor out of a jail facility. These are sometimes known as “diversionary programs” intended to “divert” the minor offender from the normal routes of juvenile criminal justice. Some of these non-incarceration sentencing options may include:

  • Warnings: Verbal warnings are commonly issued for less serious violations/
  • Fines: Many juvenile offenses result in monetary fines to be paid to the government or as compensation for a victim.
  • Community Service: The juvenile may be required to perform a specified number of community service hours, usually on weekends/
  • Counseling: Counseling may be required as part of disposition order. It is often required in conjunction with other options such as house arrest/
  • Electronic Monitoring: “E-monitoring” devices are becoming more commonplace. These involve an ankle or wrist bracelet that the minor must wear at all times to verify their location/

Judges often have much discretion to prescribe sentencing options for a juvenile offender. This is to maximize the minor’s rehabilitation in light of their individual circumstances. Sentencing options for juvenile crimes therefore allow the minor to be reintegrated back into the community.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Issues with a Juvenile Crime?

If you or a loved one has any issues or questions regarding juvenile crime, it’s in your best interest to contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. A skilled criminal defense attorney near you will be able to discuss the various sentencing options that may be available in your case. Also, you may want to inquire about having juvenile records sealed in the future.