Juvenile Proceedings

Juvenile proceedings are different from regular criminal proceedings because they are tailored toward juveniles, children under the age of 18. Every state has a different type of system set up to handle their juvenile matters. Some states have an actual juvenile court, other states place juvenile matters under the guise of the family or probate court. However, most courts that have jurisdiction to hear juvenile matters may transfer the case to a trial court when the offense charged is severe. The process of transferring a juvenile case is often referred to as waiving jurisdiction.

Juvenile Court Proceedings

Whether in juvenile, family or probate court, the juvenile is entitled to:

  •     The right to be represented by counsel.
  •     The right to present witnesses on the juvenile’s behalf.
  •     The right to subpoena, confront, and cross-examine witnesses.
  •     The right to a public hearing.
  •     The right to present evidence.
  •     The right to appeal.

If the juvenile could face prison time if adjudicated delinquent of the offense charged, he may be entitled to the appointment of counsel if he is indigent. Juvenile court proceedings are usually sealed. The records are confidential and are not accessible to the general public. Some states do not automatically seal juvenile records. In that instance, the juvenile may have to request for his records to be sealed.

The juvenile does not have a right to a jury trial. However, if the juvenile is adjudicated delinquent, jeopardy has attached and the juvenile may be tried again for the same offense.

Status Offenses

A status offense is an offense that is only illegal for a juvenile and not for an adult. Examples of status offenses include:

  •     Truancy (failure to attend school).
  •     Running away.
  •     Incorrigible behavior.
  •     Underage drinking.
  •     Curfew violations.

Juvenile proceedings differ from regular court proceedings in that when the court finds that the evidence supported the contention that the juvenile committed an offense, he is typically adjudicated or found delinquent. They are not found “guilty” as in the adult criminal system. The prosecutor must prove that the juvenile committed the offense as charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The same standard applies in adult court.

The juvenile may be tried as an adult if he commits a serious crime and is closer to the age of 18. Whether the juvenile will be charged as an adult differs greatly from state to state. Juveniles commit all of the offenses that adults commit, including but not limited to, murder, rape, theft offenses, assault, weapons offenses, and drug use and sales. In the past years, more male juveniles are arrested for crimes than females.

Typical Sentences

Depending upon the offense, the juvenile may be assigned to community service, may be placed on probation or in a detention facility. Probation is a common sentence, especially for a non-serious offense or a first-time offender of a non-serious or non-violent offense. The juvenile, as is an adult, will be required to meet with his probation officer as required. Further, probation for a juvenile may be revoked if violated, just as with an adult. The judge or magistrate has a lot of discretion in determining the juvenile’s sentence. Under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, status offenders or offenders of non-serious or non-violent offenses may not be placed in secure facilities.

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.