Juvenile court is a special division of the criminal justice system. It deals specifically with criminal cases involving underage defendants. In most states, this is anyone below the age of 18 years of age. Juvenile courts often take various factors into consideration when trying a juvenile defendant. For instance, the court will often consider the defendant’s age, previous juvenile crimes, and social or psychological factors.
How Is Juvenile Court Different from Other Courts?
Juvenile court is similar to the regular adult criminal courts in that the defendant is tried and may be sentenced if found guilty. However, it does differ in many respects. For instance, the juvenile court system tends to focus more on restoring the juvenile offender back to a normal status in society, rather than detaining them through incarceration.
Diversionary programs that involve community service, and other types of alternative sentencing options are more common with the juvenile court system. In some cases, a mix of different sentencing methods might be employed. The juvenile defendant may face some short jail time, then afterwards be required to perform community service on a regular basis. This all depends on each individual case.
What Are Some Common Juvenile Crimes?
The types of criminal cases that pass through a juvenile court tend to be less serious crimes, such as misdemeanors and non-jailable citations. These include cases such as:
- Petty theft
- Simple assault
- Alcohol and drug-related charges
- Various driving citations
Felony cases do occur, however, especially those related to serious thefts and violent crimes.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Juvenile Crimes?
Dealing with juvenile crimes can often require legal assistance. You may wish to hire a qualified criminal lawyer in your area if you or a loved one needs help with a criminal case. An attorney will be able to represent you during the juvenile court proceedings, and can keep you informed of your legal options.