Most children have a mischievous streak, but sometimes it goes too far and crosses the line into criminal behavior. Since children don't belong in a penitentiary with adults, and since minors generally have a greater chance of rehabilitation, there are special rules and procedures to handle juvenile crime. 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.
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA)
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act is the single most important piece of federal legislation affecting youth in juvenile justice systems across the country. JJDPA provides a nationwide planning and advisory system spanning all states, territories, and the District of Columbia and federal funding for delinquency prevention and improvements in state and local juvenile justice programs and practices.
What is Parens Patriae?
Parens patriae is a Latin term meaning "parent of his country." It is often used to refer to the state as the guardian of children or incompetent persons. In juvenile law, it provides for the basis for prosecution for "status offenses" such as truancy, possession and consumption of alcohol, curfew violations, and the purchase of cigarettes. The legal theory is that these actions are harmful to minors, and the courts need to protect minors from such activities.
Detaining a Juvenile
The police may arrest/detain a juvenile for either a felony or misdemeanor offense. Unlike the case with adults, the police do not have to personally witness a misdemeanor to take the juvenile into custody. He needs only probable cause to believe it was committed. He can even arrest upon reasonable cause to believe the minor a truant.
Juveniles Standing Trial as Adults
Having a minor stand trial as an adult is an extremely controversial topic in the U.S. Essentially the court will set the terms of bail and, if the child is in detention, the child may be transferred to the appropriate officer or detention facility for adults provided certain conditions are met. The juvenile court’s authority over that case is then terminated. Once tried and if convicted, any sentence of incarceration is to an adult facility. Likewise, any probation is supervised by probation officers who supervise adult offenders.
Alternatives to Juvenile Incarceration
The juvenile court system has a number of sentencing alternatives at their disposal. The phrase “community-based alternatives” refers to a wide range of approaches designed to limit youth contact with the juvenile justice system and the frequency with which they are incarcerated. Alternatives have included options such as probation, restorative community programs, evidence-based treatment programs and many more approaches.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney
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.