Teen Violence Laws

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 What Does the Term “Teen Violence” Mean?

Teen violence is a term that describes violent acts that involve children, adolescents, and young adults who are between the ages of 10 to 24 years of age. A young individual can be a victim of teen violence, a perpetrator of teen violence, or even both.

Teen violence may also be referred to as youth violence.

What Are Examples of Teen Violence?

There are numerous examples of teen violence. It may include behavior such as physical or verbal abuse that does not result in serious injury or death.

Examples of physical abuse may include, but are not limited to:

  • Slapping;
  • Hitting someone with an object;
  • Punching;
  • Hair-pulling.

One common example of verbal abuse is cyberbullying.

Can Dating Violence Count as Teen Violence?

Yes, dating violence can be considered teen violence. Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behavior that occurs between two individuals in a romantic relationship.

One individual uses this type of behavior to control or gain power over the individual they are dating. This type of violence may occur between young adults and adolescents who are dating one another.

Does Teen Violence Include Serious Criminal Acts?

Yes, teen violence may include more serious and violent criminal acts. These acts may be committed against another teenager or against an adult.

Examples of criminal acts that may be committed by teens that involve violence include:

These examples of criminal acts typically result in serious injury or death to the victim.

Can I Be Tried as an Adult for a Crime?

Yes, a teenager may be tried as an adult and face adult criminal charges. Usually, individuals who are under the age of 18 will be tried as a juvenile in juvenile court.

In certain cases, however, any individual under the age of 18 may be tried as an adult. A jurisdiction may have enacted a law preventing juveniles from being tried as adults. If that is the case, the main factor that will determine whether a juvenile is tried as an adult will be their age.

It is important to note that the age of majority can vary by state. For example, in Alabama, the age of majority is 19.

In those states that have enacted statutes regarding juveniles being tried as adults, the reasons will typically depend on certain factors, including:

  • The nature of the offense;
  • The severity of the offense;
  • Whether or not the minor was aware of what they were doing and how serious the crime was;
  • Whether or not the minor is a repeat offender; and
  • Whether or not the minor has been tired as an adult previously.

A juvenile may be arrested and initially seen in juvenile court, but their case can be transferred into the adult criminal system in one of several ways, including:

  • Direct file: In some states, the prosecutor has the right to decide if the juvenile is tried as an adult;
  • Judicial waiver: A judge decides to transfer the case to adult court;
  • Reverse waiver: The seriousness of the crime requires the juvenile be tried as an adult unless ruled it should be remanded to juvenile court;
  • Statutory exclusion: This is an automatic transfer if the crime is serious or the teen has a prior record.

What Are the Consequences of Being Transferred to an Adult Court?

Juvenile criminal defendants may face very serious legal consequences if they are transferred to adult court and are tried as adults. Common examples of consequences minors may face when transferred to adult court and convicted include:

  • They may receive a harsher sentence than they would if they were tried as a minor in a juvenile court, for example, a prison sentence for life without parole;
  • They may end up with an adult criminal record that can affect their future employment and educational opportunities;
  • They may experience the loss of certain legal rights enjoyed by adults, such as voting in elections, applying for loans, owning firearms, and other rights;
  • It will be harder to have their criminal record sealed or expunged; and
  • They will lose some of the alternative sentencing options that may have been available to them in juvenile court.

What Are the Punishments for Teenage Violence?

The punishments for teenage violence will depend entirely on the type of violence that occurred, the severity of the offense, and the perpetrator’s previous criminal record. Probation is a common sentence imposed for teenage violence.

A juvenile court may impose a punishment that they feel best suits the child, which may include:

  • A lecture;
  • Confinement in a juvenile detention facility;
  • Mandatory schooling;
  • Community service;
  • Probation or parole;
  • Significant fines; or
  • A record of the incident being included on their criminal record.

There may also be programs that the juvenile can attend or classes they can complete to have their punishment reduced. For more information, it is important to consult with a lawyer who will be aware of the juvenile system in an individual’s jurisdiction.

When Might a Parent Be Held Liable for Juvenile Crimes?

It is important for parents to be aware that, depending on the state, they may face parental responsibility for juvenile crimes. In some states, Parental Accountability or Parental Responsibility Laws hold parents responsible for any crimes that are committed by their child.

Examples of crimes that accountability or responsibility laws may include, but may not be limited to:

  • Internet access, hacking, and other computer crimes: Computer crimes occur when a computer is used to facilitate traditional crimes and illegal activity such as fraud, revenge porn, and white-collar crimes; or when an offender targets their victim’s computer systems to copy, alter, destroy, or interrupt the system;
    • Parents may be held liable if their child commits other types of digital crimes, such as sexting and child pornography distributed electronically, which can result in severe legal consequences;
  • Firearm access: If a child used a firearm when committing a crime, their parent may be held responsible if they owned or controlled the firearm;
    • The parent may not be held liable if the firearm was obtained elsewhere;
  • Car accidents: Parents may be held responsible if their child causes an automobile accident using their car that results in injuries. The car involved in the accident must belong to the parent of the child in order for the parent to be held responsible;
  • Property damage: If property damage results from an intentional act that the child committed, the parents may be held responsible for the damage.

If a parent is held responsible for their child’s crimes, punishments may include:

  • Payment of fines and court fees;
  • Payment of costs associated with the child’s:
    • detention;
    • treatment;
    • supervision;
  • Restitution payments made to the victims;
  • Participation in community service with their child;
  • Jail time.

Should I Contact a Lawyer About Teen Violence?

If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to teen violence or your minor child, it is essential to consult with a juvenile lawyer. Being convicted of a crime, especially in adult court, can have a major impact on the rest of your child’s life.

Your child’s attorney can advocate on their behalf in juvenile and adult court and ensure their rights are protected. Your lawyer may also be able to negotiate for a less severe sentence or, in some cases, a dismissal of the charges.

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