Juvenile vs Adult Criminal Proceedings: The Differences

Juveniles prone to committing crimes have a complicated status within the ambit of the legal system. Being children who lack a clear understanding of the laws, they need special protections. At the same time, they don’t have the same constitutional rights as adults within the purview of law. Therefore, the juvenile courts’ procedures are geared towards balancing these two concerns and rehabilitating juveniles who turn delinquent.

Criminal Proceeding

Definition of a Juvenile

A majority of states consider a juvenile as a person aged between ten and eighteen, but some states have set the maximum age limit as sixteen, for such a consideration. Any person falling over a state’s stated age limit is treated and tried as an adult. Also, in some cases, juveniles who are relatively older and commit serious crimes undergo trial as an adult, even though they would be considered a juvenile under normal circumstances.

The terms used by courts for juvenile offenders differ from those used for adult offenders. Juveniles, in legal parlance, are said to be committing “delinquent acts” rather than crimes; they undergo “adjudication hearings”, instead of trials.

Rights and Protections for Juveniles

Juveniles do not have the same constitutional rights as the adults in the American legal system. To quote an example, the adjudication hearings for juveniles are heard by the judges themselves as the former does not legally have the right to be tried by a jury of their peers. They also do not have the right for a bail or trial publically. However, they do have extra protections in the juvenile court system, an important one being that their records are sealed and they can avoid the adverse fallout from their juvenile offenses for the remainder of their lives. When they turn 18, their case records are expunged provided they have met the prescribed conditions at the time of hearing. The other legal rights that they enjoy include notices of delinquent acts prior to their adjudication hearing and getting a prerelease of their delinquent acts was not violent in nature. They can also engage an attorney and a public defender, as it’s likely that they won’t be able to afford one by themselves.

Intent and Purpose in Juvenile Court Rulings

After the adjudication of a case, the judge, during the disposition, has to follow certain guidelines while sentencing the juvenile, if held guilty: their intent and purpose should be act in the best interest of the child and focus on their rehabilitation so that they can move on to lead a productive life after attaining adulthood.

Also Read: How to Post a Bail in Federal Court

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