Because of the age and vulnerability of minors, there are additional protections built into the juvenile justice system. Thus, the procedures for juvenile justice proceedings differ from those of the adult criminal justice system. This is true from the very first police questioning of a minor suspect to the effect that a criminal conviction has on a juvenile's permanent record. This section describes the steps in the juvenile justice system, lists the situations in which a juvenile can be tried as an adult, and offers guidance for choosing a juvenile justice attorney.
Definition of a Juvenile
Most jurisdictions consider a juvenile a person between the ages of ten and eighteen, however, some states set the maximum juvenile age as sixteen. Anyone over a state's given age limit is tried as an adult. Furthermore, sometimes older juveniles who commit serious or violent crimes are tried as adults, even though they would normally be considered juveniles.
Police Questioning Minors Without Parents Present
In most state, minors have rights like adults. Minors have a right against self-incrimination and a right to an attorney, as well as other constitutional rights. This means that cops must read a minor his or her Miranda rights when they arrest that minor. Law enforcement police is generally allowed to question minors without their parents approval and without their parents being present. There is no requirement that parents must consent before their children are interviewed by the police. But the juvenile interrogation must be voluntary. The law is still developing as to whether or not a minor can be questioned without parents present while in school.
Sealing Juvenile Records
If you went to court when you were under 18 for doing something wrong, you may be able to get the record sealed. This includes records held by law enforcement, the district attorney, probation, and the courts. When the court orders your records sealed, it means that the offense that brought you to court no longer exists by law and you can legally and truthfully say you do not have a criminal record when asked about your criminal history (there may be an exception to this if you want to join the military or get a federal security clearance). Since you can legally say you do not have a record in most cases, sealing your juvenile records may make it easier for you to find a job, get a driver’s license, get a loan, rent an apartment, or go to college.
Juveniles and the Death Penalty
In March 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for those who had committed their crimes when under 18 years of age was cruel and unusual punishment and hence barred by the Constitution. The death penalty for juvenile offenders has been banned by nations everywhere in large part due to the express provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and of several other international treaties and agreements. Since 1990, juvenile offenders are known to have been executed in only several countries including China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney
If your child is suspected of a crime or is already facing criminal charges, working with a dedicated and experienced criminal defense attorney is the best way to ensure fair treatment for your child and their future. Obviously, if there’s any place in our criminal justice system we are hoping to see fairness and compassion, it’s in juvenile court. A juvenile defense lawyer can find out all relevant family, school, employment, medical, and social circumstances of your juvenile to make an effective presentation to the court at the earliest opportunity to argue for the child’s release from jail while the case is pending.