While teenage crime rates are at an all-time low, an astonishing 4,000 out of every 100,000 teenagers are arrested each year in the United States. These teenagers not only face harsh and frightening penalties for their misdeeds but also face permanent blemishes on their record. Certain types of youth convictions carry steep consequences, such as the inability to receive federal financial aid for college expenses.

Teenage crime is referred to as juvenile delinquency in the legal world. When a child is a minor under the age of 18, the child can still be prosecuted for criminal offenses. However, the prosecution procedure is different from adult prosecution.

Juvenile Delinquency

A juvenile is labeled as a delinquent when he or she (1) disobeys his or her parents or (2) breaks the law. Examples of juvenile delinquency include:

  • Breaking curfew
  • Running away from home
  • Skipping school or unexcused tardiness
  • Committing crimes, such as engaging in acts of teen violence

When a teenager commits a crime, he or she can be arrested by the police. However, instead of appearing before a judge who handles adult felons and misdemeanants, the teenager will appear before a special juvenile judge who handles only juvenile delinquency cases.

In most states, the juvenile court hearings are closed to the public. In addition, only the teenager’s initials will be used on court documents to protect the minor’s privacy. Most states also require that at least one parent attend all court hearings.

As part of the process, the teenager will be assigned a caseworker who will work with the teenager to ensure they are following all conditions set forth by the judge.

Penalties for Teenage Crime

The type of sentence varies with the type of offense. If a teenager has excessive school absences or has run away from home, the sentence rendered by the judge will likely be more lenient and may include curfew or drug testing.

If the teenager has committed a crime, however, the penalties will likely be much harsher. The teenager may be sentenced to a juvenile detention center, which is separate from an adult prison. This rips the child away from his or her parents and places the child in a very cold and unforgiving environment.

Finding Teenage Crime Lawyers

If your teenager has been accused of committing a crime, you need to be prepared to help them fight the charges. Your teenager faces dire consequences, both in terms of potential prison time and lasting effects on their permanent record. An experienced juvenile attorney has the skills and expertise to help your child pursue justice.