A juvenile is a person who has not attained his eighteenth birthday.” It is a minor under the age of 18 that is charged with committing a crime. One of the primary purposes and goals of the juvenile justice system is to address “misconduct while protecting the community.”
There are several programs to protect the youth and ensure that they can receive treatment or counseling depending on their circumstances. The Department of Juvenile Services helps in this aspect, and each state has a division to serve the community.
What Is Juvenile Delinquency?
When a child commits a crime, several procedures occur to charge them with the crime formally. If there are multiple encounters with law enforcement regarding the child, a case is filed in the juvenile court alleging that the child is delinquent. A delinquent act is an act committed by a person under 18 that, if committed by an adult, would be considered a crime.
You need to check the local state laws to determine the age categorized under juvenile crimes. For instance, the New York courts state that when a person under the age of 16 but at least 7 years old commits an act that would be a “crime” if they were an adult, then found they are deemed a juvenile delinquent. The act committed is referred to as a “delinquent act.”
Furthermore, all juvenile delinquency cases are heard in the Family Court. However, some minors who are 13, 14, and 15 years old that commit a more severe or violent crime may be treated as adults. These cases may be heard in the Supreme Court. After the trial, if found guilty, the child is referred to as a “juvenile offender” and is subject to more serious penalties than a juvenile delinquent.
Besides the processes mentioned above, there will be detention hearings for considered dangerous minors. If the police officers or the court believe that a child may not appear in court or is a danger to themselves or the public, the child will be detained before a fact-finding hearing is done. Their hearing will usually occur the next day before a judge.
Moreover, an adjudication hearing will be held within a time frame to determine whether or not the child committed the crime. The court will review all the facts of the case and the evidence regarding the case. The lawyers will have the floor to present witnesses and cross-examine as needed. But, no witnesses are called if the child admits to the offense. Once the court determines the child committed the crime, the court will schedule a disposition hearing.
What Can The Judge Order At Disposition?
The disposition hearing can be scheduled on the same day as the adjudication hearing or held later. At this hearing, the court will decide what the minor offender needs:
- Restitution: The court can order the juvenile to make payments to the victim or the victim’s family, including funeral expenses, medical expenses, or property damage expenses;
- Place the child on probation under the supervision of the Department of Juvenile Services and;
- Rehabilitation for the child under the Department of Juvenile Services.
Remember that the juvenile has a right to a lawyer throughout all these procedures. The attorney can accompany them throughout their hearings and other proceedings. Furthermore, there is a process for obtaining an Expungement of Juvenile Record. You can research your local state website to determine how to accomplish this.
What Are Juvenile Offenses?
In more severe cases, a minor may be sent to a juvenile detention facility or even an adult prison. Juvenile judges do not want to settle for confinement and severe penalties. Rather, they want to be able to educate the youth regarding juvenile offenses and prevent them from committing them.
There are some major juvenile offenses that minors commit. Below are some of these offenses:
- Alcohol-related offenses;
- Disruption of peace;
- Drug-related issues;
- Criminal trespass;
- Possession of weapons;
- Sex crimes and;
- Gang crime.
A minor may be sent to a juvenile detention facility or even an adult prison in more severe cases. The judges will look to other rehabilitation alternatives before resorting to serious punishment. However, each case varies on the circumstances and facts surrounding it. Additionally, specific juvenile offenses, such as sex crimes, can have lifetime registration consequences or may add other sentencing requirements that can impact minors for the rest of their life.
Moreover, a status offense is referred to as an act that is considered a violation of the law simply because a minor commits the conduct. For example, consuming alcohol is legal for adults, but for minors, this would be considered an offense because they are underage. Also, operating a vehicle is legal with a license, but for minors, it would be considered illegal.
Some more examples of status offenses include:
- Possession of marijuana;
- Possession of cigarettes or tobacco products;
- Not regularly attending school (truancy);
- Violation of local curfew hours and;
- Driving with any measurable amount of blood alcohol.
There is a high rate of juvenile arrests, charges, and crimes. The juvenile court system wants to assist the youth in preventing crimes and keeping them on the path to success. Therefore, having status offenses allows the youth to stay out of trouble and ensure that they are becoming mindful citizens.
The court will first determine if it is in the interest of justice to pursue an alternative resolution to address the juvenile’s conduct rather than a formal filing. The formal filing may negatively impact the minor’s life and ability to excel in the future. Therefore, providing alternative resolutions such as community service, counseling, therapy, probation, or a fine will be useful for them.
However, in some cases, the court will charge the juvenile with formal proceedings. If formal proceedings are brought against the juvenile for a minor status offense, seek help immediately from a legal expert to understand your options and other alternatives for the minor. The attorney will be able to provide you with more information on how to move forward and determine what would be in the best interest of the child.
The court reviews the severity of the crime, the minor’s behavior, and criminal history. After examining these factors, they will decide what options are best for the case and the purposes of the juvenile justice process. Furthermore, the court will consider the evidence against the juvenile and whether the juvenile’s parent or guardian can regulate the juvenile’s behavior. As mentioned above, seeking legal help from a criminal lawyer will be helpful.
When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?
If you have a minor and have been charged with a crime under the juvenile justice system, it is highly recommended to reach out to a local juvenile attorney to understand the process and what to do to move forward in the future. Since being a juvenile can impact your daily life, it is important to seek help immediately.