Even kids can run afoul of the law. Once this happens, and a child enters the criminal justice system, he or she may be deemed a “juvenile delinquent.”
Who Are Juvenile Delinquents?
Juvenile delinquents are minors, usually defined as being between the ages of 10 and 18, who have committed some act that violates the law. These acts aren’t called “crimes” as they would be for adults. Rather, crimes committed by minors are called “delinquent acts.” Instead of a trial, the juvenile has an “adjudication,” after which she receives a “disposition” and a sentence. However, juvenile proceedings differ from adult proceedings in a number of ways.
Delinquent acts generally fall into two categories. The first type of delinquent act is one that would be considered a crime had an adult committed it. For particularly serious crimes, some jurisdictions will even try children as adults. When children are tried as juveniles, on the other hand, parents are often required to pay the court costs for the child.
The second type of delinquent act is one that wouldn’t normally be a crime had an adult performed it. These are typically known as “age-related” or “status” crimes. The most common examples of age-related crimes are staying out past curfew and “truancy,” which is the continued failure to attend school.
Seek an Attorney’s Advice
Because juveniles require special help and have extra rights before the criminal justice system, it’s in your best interests to hire an attorney when facing adjudication. If handled improperly, a delinquent act can follow a minor into adulthood. An attorney can help ensure your child’s delinquency record is expunged when he or she turns 18. That means all record of wrongdoing will be deleted, giving your child a fresh start.
For more information, see FindLaw’s sections on juvenile crime and court procedure.