Committing a crime of some sort will always be illegal and the perpetrator is punished in some way, shape or form. However, in the majority of the United States, crimes committed by a juvenile may not be a severely punished as they would be in an adult court. Juveniles are still to be considered in most states as children (anyone under the age of 18) and therefore, depending on the seriousness of the crime, may get a smaller punishment. Although some states vary on certain details, overall the differences between being tried as a juvenile and an adult are generally the same.
Some cases may be more serious than others and can result in someone under the age of 18 being tried as an adult. Although these cases are rare for the very young minors, it is more common to see a 16 or 17 year old being sent to adult court. Again, this depends on the case and its severity a grocery store theft vs. assault, for example. Some major differences between juvenile crimes and adult court can include simple terminology. An adult is classified as a “criminal” and receives a sentence as a punishment, but a juvenile is considered to have performed “delinquent acts” and the outcome of their hearing is referred to as a disposition. Terminology alone shows that courts are more lenient towards juveniles, perhaps because there is usually a strong urge to help rehabilitate and change a minor instead of handing them over to the system and allowing them easier access to become criminals later on.
Allowing minors a chance to reform and possibly correct some mistakes they have made, will hopefully open their eyes to improving their behavior and not continue down a criminal path. Other differences that can be found between the two systems also include:
• Trial by jury. Adults have this right, while juveniles are only seen by a judge who then determines if they are guilty or not guilty.
• Jurisdiction. Adult crimes are tried in the country they were committed in. A juvenile may be tried in their country of residence which may be different from where the crime/ act took place.
• Expungement, or the removal of an offense from the offender’s official records are much more lenient for a juvenile as opposed to an adult’s records.
• Closed and Open Hearings. Adult criminal proceedings are typically public, whereas a juvenile hearing or proceedings are closed. This helps to control their activities from reaching public records or social media, allowing the rehabilitation effort to begin.
While they have their differences, both courts share some similarities such as the accused has the right to an attorney, and the right to a hearing. Both courts also must inform the offender to the charge(s) against them along with the right for the offender to evade admission of guilt. Both courts also require that guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you or someone you know is being tried as a juvenile or perhaps is a juvenile being tried as an adult, contact us at Ali & Blankner, your juvenile crimes attorney to help guide you through the complicated legal system.