When a juvenile is accused of a crime, the criminal process is very different. The juvenile crime is called an act of “delinquency” and requires juvenile court intervention to correct the delinquency. Juvenile courts have their own special rules and procedures.
Depending on the jurisdiction, juvenile courts handle cases involving children between the ages of 10 and 18. However, in cases of violent felonies such as murder, the state may choose to try the juvenile as an adult. In most jurisdictions, the decision to try the juvenile as an adult will depend on the judge’s discretion. Juvenile rights are different from adult rights. For example, juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial. Nor in many cases do they have a right to a public court proceeding. Notwithstanding, juveniles are entitled to have a full notice of all charges against them, the right to a fair hearing, and the right to confront hostile witnesses.
Since a judge, not a jury, will determine the fate of a juvenile defendant, it is common for the court to favor “rehabilitation” over “punishment.” The jurisdictions vary widely on the quality and types of rehabilitation offered. The choice of options range from incarceration to participation in community service activities. If incarceration is chosen, the juvenile, in most cases, must be released no later than his or her eighteenth birthday. It is important that you choose a juvenile crimes lawyer who is experienced in juvenile law. Not only are the rules and procedures different from adult court, but defense strategies in these cases require special consideration that is unique to juvenile law.