Offenders who have not yet reached 18 years of age typically enter the juvenile justice system rather than the adult criminal justice system. While many of the crimes committed may be the same, juvenile offenders are subject to different laws and procedures than adults who have been charged with crimes. This section offers a guide to juvenile crime, the laws governing minors, and the court procedures involved in juvenile cases. You'll find articles and resources covering “status” crimes, police questioning of minors, the juvenile court process, the differences between juvenile proceedings and adult criminal proceedings, and much more.
Although a type of criminal law, juvenile crime law only deals with under-age individuals, who are treated very differently than adults in criminal law, and usually have their own courts of law.
Minors under the age of 18 years, who commit a crime, or otherwise violate established rules and statutes, are identified as juvenile delinquents, juvenile offenders, youthful offenders, or delinquent minors. Laws governing juvenile delinquency are largely enacted and regulated on a state by state basis.
This section contains articles that describe the development of the juvenile justice system, give basic information about the implications of a juvenile conviction, and offer examples of the most common types of juvenile crimes.
Criminal Procedure in Juvenile Court
Juvenile courts hear cases dealing with juvenile delinquents, incorrigible youth or status offenders, and issues of child neglect, abandonment or abuse. These courts are considered civil, not criminal and the minor is charged with committing a delinquent act, rather than a crime.
When a judge determines that a minor has committed a delinquent act, he or she pronounces the juvenile to be a ward of the court, and is allowed broad discretion when disposing of the case. This can include suspension of their driver's license, paying a fine, community service, ordering counseling, probation, home confinement, placement in a relative’s home or in a foster or group home, and even incarceration in juvenile corrections In extreme cases the judge can send the youth to an adult jail or state prison.
Juvenile Correctional Facilities
In addition to specialized courts of law for juvenile offenses, they are also detained in separate facilities, usually called juvenile corrections. These include short term facilities called juvenile halls or juvenile detention facilities and for longer terms, secured juvenile facilities. This corrections system includes social workers and probation officers, and the end goal is to rehabilitate the offender and deter them from repeat offenses.
Seeking the Services of a Juvenile Lawyer
In many cases, a public defender will be appointed if the juvenile does not have income or resources in excess of a specific economic threshold. Either pre-trial services or the judge will determine if a particular defendant needs a public defender. A juvenile that does not show sufficient financial need will be told to hire his own attorney. In some areas, if a determination of partial indigence is made the defendant may be ordered to repay to the court some of the costs of appointing counsel.