Civil law addresses behavior that causes some sort of injury to an individual, or other private party, through lawsuits. Penalties for any parties that are found liable for these acts are generally monetary, but may also include court-ordered remedies such as injunctions or restraining orders.
Criminal law addresses behavior that is considered to be an offense against society, the state, or public. This remains true even if the victim is an individual person. Someone who is convicted of a crime may be forced to pay fines, as well as potentially being sentenced to jail or prison time. Regardless of whether someone is being charged with a serious crime or a minor crime, the accused still has the right to a trial, as well as certain other legal protections.
Criminal procedure refers to the overall legal process of adjudicating claims for those accused of violating criminal laws. The overall intention behind all criminal procedures is known as the “presumption of innocence,” meaning that a suspect is considered to be innocent until they are proven guilty.
Criminal procedure addresses:
- Stop, detention, and arrest;
- Search and seizure;
- Booking and filing charges;
- Suspect or eyewitness lineup identifications;
- Assigning a court-appointed lawyer;
- Plea bargaining;
- Criminal evidence;
- Criminal sentencing;
- Appeal; and/or
- Probation and parole.
What Are Juvenile Crimes?
A juvenile crime is any crime that is committed by a child or minor, or a juvenile, who is generally under the age of 18. However, this age requirement often varies on a state by state basis. An example of this would be how in some states, the maximum age to be charged for a juvenile crime is 16 or 17. Most states consider a child who is aged 14 or older to have the necessary capacity to intentionally commit a crime.
Children aged 7 years old or younger are generally considered to be incapable of intentionally committing a crime. This is because they are considered to be too young to fully understand the difference between right and wrong. However, there is a possibility that a young child could be held liable for committing the crime of homicide.
There are many differences between the juvenile criminal justice system, and the adult criminal justice system; namely, they are governed by separate laws and rules. However, there are some factors that may cause a juvenile to be tried and processed through the adult criminal system. This includes when a crime is considered to be especially shocking or outrageous, or if the juvenile is a repeat offender.
An example of this would be how a juvenile may be tried as an adult for rape, homicide, or repeated theft. Meaning, they can face considerably harsher penalties, and will have a reduced chance to redeem themselves through an alternative form of punishment.
The juvenile court decides what the best punishment is for a minor. Most importantly, these consequences are intended to educate and rehabilitate the minor, as opposed to simply imposing a punishment on them such as what an adult would receive. Because of this, minors have a greater variety of alternative sentencing options available to them than adults.
The specific type of punishment that the juvenile court may issue against a minor can range from an educational lecture, to a specific amount of time in confinement which is to be served in a juvenile detention facility. Some common examples of such legal consequences include:
- Detainment by the juvenile court system;
- Mandatory schooling;
- Community service;
- Probation or parole;
- Significant fines; and/or
- Depending on the minor’s age, the conviction could remain on their permanent record for life.
The likelihood of receiving any of these penalties will largely depend on the following factors:
- The type of crime that was committed;
- Whether a weapon was used during commission of the crime;
- The extent of injury or damage done by the crime;
- How their local community and court system reacts towards the crime in question;
- Whether the minor had any prior convictions;
- The circumstances of their home and family life;
- Whether the child has any mental health conditions; and
- Whether the minor was already currently on probation or parole for another crime.
What Is A Juvenile Waiver?
A juvenile waiver occurs when a judge transfers a case from juvenile court to an adult court. The juvenile will be tried as an adult, and will be denied whatever protections that may otherwise exist in juvenile proceedings. While juvenile waivers are allowed in nearly all states, the decision to “waive” juvenile protections and try the juvenile as an adult rests with the judge and not the defendant. This is the defining characteristic of a juvenile waiver.
Juveniles may also be immediately transferred to an adult court according to statute, which is known as “Statutory Exclusion.” Or, they may be tried in both adult and juvenile courts at the same time, which is known as “Concurrent Jurisdiction.”
However, it is important to note that a juvenile cannot be tried in juvenile court, and then transferred and retried again in an adult court. Doing so would be a violation of Double Jeopardy laws, which prohibit a person from being tried for the same crime. Additionally, juvenile offenders have the right to have an attorney present during hearings in which a juvenile waiver is being decided upon.
In most states, juvenile waivers are issued to defendants who are 17 or 18 years old. However, some states have determined that this age can be as young as 13 or 14. Meaning, even very young offenders may be subject to adult criminal law standards, depending on the nature of the crime that was committed.
If a juvenile is tried as an adult, the adult charges will likely remain permanently on their record, whereas most juvenile criminal records are sealed when the person turns 18. The juvenile offender could also lose many of their civil privileges, such as the right to vote.
What Offenses Are Subject To A Juvenile Waiver?
Juvenile waiver to an adult court is generally reserved for particularly egregious crimes, which require proof that the juvenile acted with a criminal intent similar to that of an adult when committing the crime. Examples of offenses that are generally subject to juvenile waiver include:
- Violent crimes, such as first-degree murder;
- Violations of firearm laws; and
- Violations of drug possession and distribution laws.
As such, it may be considered unconstitutional if a juvenile offender is being transferred to an adult court for a minor crime. However, juvenile waivers can also be issued if the defendant has an established history of committing several crimes.
When determining whether a juvenile waiver should be prescribed, the judge may consider the following factors:
- The juvenile offender’s criminal history;
- Information gathered from psychiatric or psychological evaluations;
- The nature and type of the criminal acts involved; and
- Whether the state enforces statutes which allow immediate transfer to an adult court without first conducting a juvenile trial.
During the initial determination of juvenile waiver, the defendant’s attorney may contest the waiver based on the factors listed above. This is known as the “transfer hearing,” or “waiver hearing.” However, not all juvenile cases involve transfer hearings.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With A Juvenile Waiver?
Juvenile criminal systems are much different than adult court systems, and may vary from state to state. Your lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.