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.
Juvenile Delinquency: Early Detection and Intervention
As you can see, juvenile delinquency is more than mischievous pranks such as doorbell ditching or throwing water balloons at your neighbor. Some of these offenses can be quite serious, such as drug-related offenses or even property crimes or crimes against another person. Delinquency prevention and intervention efforts primarily are comprised of identifying the risk factors that contribute to delinquency, addressing those factors early, and building on protective factors to offset the risks.
There are a growing number of non-profit programs designed to assist youth and help guide them to a better path. Such organizations as Big Brother, Big Sisters can provide mentoring and positive role models for at-risk youth. If your son or daughter is getting caught up in a series of juvenile deliquency acts, consider reaching out to one of these organizations to learn more.
Remember, state laws regarding juvenile justice are constantly changing. It is important to research the laws in of your jurisdiction to understand the procedures and penalties involved. For more information, see FindLaw’s sections on juvenile crime and court procedure. Additionally, you can check out the following links:
Have Questions About Juvenile Delinquents? Talk to an Attorney
If handled improperly, a delinquent act can follow a minor into adulthood. Since juveniles require special help and have extra rights in the criminal justice system, it’s in your best interests to hire a criminal defense attorney if your child is facing the possibility of being deemed a juvenile delinquent. An attorney can help ensure your child’s delinquency record is expunged when he or she turns 18, which means that all record of wrongdoing would be deleted.