The Ultimate Guide to Juvenile Crime

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The Ultimate Guide to Juvenile Crime

Any crime committed by a person under the age of 18 is considered a juvenile crime.

In a few states, the maximum age to be considered for juvenile crime is 16 or 17. In Wyoming, the maximum age is 19.

Most states consider a child 14 and older of being capable of intentionally committing a crime. If a child is younger than seven, he or she will generally not be held liable for crimes. There is an exception to this rule if the child committed homicide.

Some juvenile cases may move to the adult criminal system, if the juvenile is a repeat offender or if the crime is more serious, like rape or murder.

Are There Different Types of Juvenile Crime?

There are three types of juvenile crime:

  1. Juvenile Delinquency Cases: These are all cases that involve a minor rather than an adult and will be tried in juvenile court.
  2. Juvenile Dependency Cases: These cases involve minors who are abused or neglected by their parents. The judge ultimately decides if the minor needs to be removed from the home.
  3. Cases Involving Status Offenses: Status offenses only apply to minors; they include truancy, curfew violations, running away, and underage drinking.

Most Common Juvenile Crimes

juveniles are most often involved in crimes that are misdemeanors. They can include but are not limited to:

More often than not, juvenile crimes are simple misdemeanors that are first-offenses. But juveniles can be involved in more serious crimes such as homicide and grand theft, both of which are felonies.

Juvenile Court System

The juvenile court system is civil rather than criminal. Juveniles are usually accused of committing a delinquent act, rather than being formally charged. The juvenile court can decide what the best punishment is for the child, which can range from a lecture, to confinement in a juvenile detention facility.

There are two types of proceedings in juvenile court cases: informal, and formal.

1. Informal Proceedings: A minor must appear before a probation officer or a judge. They will then be required to do one of the following:

2. Formal Proceedings: A formal proceeding follows a petition filed by the prosecutor or probation officer assigned to the minor. The minor is then "arraigned" (charged) before a juvenile court judge or referee. This is also referred to as a disposition hearing.

The court will also decide if the minor will be detained or released for the time period between being charged to the court hearing.

If the minor’s case remains in juvenile court, one of three things may occur:

In the case of a delinquency ruling, a probation officer will evaluate the juvenile, and a judge will then decide what sentence is in the best interest of the minor. These can include one or more of the following:

The judge may also order the juvenile to appear in court intermittently to monitor the juvenile’s progress and behavior.

Constitutional Rights of Juveniles

Even though juvenile cases are held in civil, rather than criminal court, juveniles are still rewarded constitutional rights. Much of them are the same or similar to the rights adults have when entering the criminal justice system. The following are the constitutional rights of a minor when entering into the juvenile court system:

The right to have charges proved beyond a reasonable doubt: The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that if a juvenile is determined as a delinquent and faces incarceration or adjudication, the state must prove the charges against the juvenile were beyond "reasonable doubt". If the minor is not facing incarceration or adjudication, the state only needs to prove the charges by "preponderance of evidence standard."

Requirements to Be Tried as an Adult

In certain scenarios, juvenile cases must be moved to an adult criminal court because the charges pressed are so serious or the minor is a repeat offender. These types of cases usually involve rape, homicide, or grand theft charges.

In order for a juvenile case to be moved to an adult court, a judge must waive the protections a juvenile court provides. This process is called a "waiver".

Juveniles must be eligible for a waiver before the case can be transferred. In most states, a juvenile must be at least 16 years of age. In a lot of states though, minors can be as young as 13 to qualify for a waiver. A few states also allow children of any age to be eligible for a waiver. These cases would usually involve homicide charges.

There are three ways in which a waiver process can begin:

  1. The prosecutor requests the case be transferred
  2. The juvenile court judge initiates the transfer
  3. In some states, juveniles will be automatically transferred to an adult court for cases such as homicide

There are certain factors that lead judges to grant a waiver to juveniles:

Can Parents Be Held Responsible for the Acts of Their Children?

Parents of a juvenile being charged will be held responsible for the actions of their child. Each state has different laws regarding parental liability in juvenile cases.

Parents are usually held responsible for the child’s actions because they have not fulfilled their duty to prevent the child from committing a crime. The parent will not be charged with the crime the juvenile has committed, but rather charged with failure of proper parental control. So in the end, parents are held criminally liable.

Some laws regarding parental responsibility hold parents legally accountable for "status crimes", which include skipping school (truancy) or breaking curfew laws.

There are two possible types of penalties that can be mandatory for a parent to fulfill: punitive, and educational:

Seeking Legal Help

If you or your child are facing consequences for a delinquent act, you should consult with a lawyer. A lawyer will help you prepare a defense for your case and will represent you when you are called to appear in juvenile court.

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Last Modified: 08-18-2015 09:30 AM PDT

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