juvenile court

About A Juvenile Court


Every state has specialized courts that deal with minors accused of violating a criminal statute. Juvenile offenders get charged with committing delinquent act instead of a crime. A juvenile case starts when probation or prosecutor files a civil petition and charge the juvenile with breaking the law and asking the court to determine if the minor is delinquent.  

A juvenile court has the power to do what it considers to be best for the juvenile and it has the legal authority over the youth for a set of the period until the minor becomes an adult.

Eligibility for juvenile court

A minor must be considered a juvenile under state law to be eligible for juvenile court. And the maximum age for most states is 17.

Increase to the age of juvenile

All the states didn’t define a juvenile as a kid below the age of 18, and this is why some of them end up in adult court. 40 states in 2013 set the upper age of 17 at which a young person can be considered juveniles. And nine states set it at 16 while North Carolina and New York cap it at 15. In 2014, some state planned to change the age limit for some of the crimes.

The many States also set juvenile court lower age limits for suitability, and they consider children that are below the age of 7 can't determine what is right from wrong.

Children that are not up to 7 are excused from the responsibility of the acts they commit, although, parents may have to compensate the victim of the crime committed. In some cases, when the court finds a parent unfit to take care of a child, it kid will be placed with a foster parents or relatives.

Some states regard children of the age 14 and older as capable of having criminal intent and most of the cases between this ages brackets are processes in juvenile court.  In certain situations, a minor can be transferred to an adult criminal court. Sometimes, a judge can determine if a child is capable of having criminal intent.

Cases eligible for juvenile court

Some of the cases heard in juvenile court are not delinquency, there are two other types of cases, and they are status offenses and dependency cases. A different procedure applies to all three types of juvenile court cases. Cases that involve status offenses:  This kind of crime is a violation that applies only to juvenile and examples include truancy, running away, curfew violations, and underage drinking in some cases.

  • Minor delinquency cases: It involves minors that have allegedly committed crimes, and this means that if an adult had perpetrated the offense, it would have been processing in criminal court. The method in juvenile court is different from the adult criminal court.
  • Juvenile dependency cases: The case involves minors who are neglected or abused by their guardians or parents, and this is called juvenile dependency cases. The judge can decide whether a juvenile should leave a hazardous home environment.

Common juvenile offenses

According to the office of delinquency prevention, most of the teenager's arrests are due to theft, drug abuse, curfew violations, simple assault, and disorderly conduct. Just about 3% of cases in juvenile court involve offenses like aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder.

Procedures in processing a juvenile court case

The procedures followed when a minor is suspected of violating a criminal statute is different from what they use in the adult court. The prosecutors, juvenile court judges, police, and young court officials have a broad discretion to be more informal when handling the cases, and as a result, most minor don’t reach the stage of the formal adjudicatory hearing.

Also, the constitutional right of a kid is different from that of an adult that has been accused of perpetrating a crime. For instance, at an adjudicatory hearing, a minor has the right to an attorney, but they don’t have the right to request for their case to be heard by a jury in most states.

The procedure of any minor cases transferred to an adult court is called a waiver, and these cases involve serious offenses like murder and rape. And in this case, juveniles have the right to determine if it should be heard in an adult court.

Options for sentencing in juvenile court

There are broad ranges of options when sentencing in juvenile courts if a minor is found to be delinquent. There are many ways by which a case can confine; it could be by sending the kid to traditional juvenile detention or placing under house arrest. The court can also order different kinds of punishments like probation, curfews, or counseling.

How to get legal help

If you want to understand the way a law applies in your jurisdiction, contact an experienced attorney in juvenile law. For instance, if your kid faces an accusation, an experienced lawyer will be able to explain the options and process and also provide representation.

What are you waiting for? List your practice and start connecting with clients today.
Revised: April 26, 2018, 8:42 p.m.
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