What Are the Differences Between Juvenile Court and Adult Court?

I previously mentioned on this blog that there are differences between adult court and juvenile court. These differences can be very significant for your child if they have been charged with a juvenile offense. In this post, I want to discuss juvenile court in more detail, as well as how it differs from adult court. Knowing this information before your child’s case proceeds to court can impact the outcomes that they face.

Adult Court

First, let’s start by discussing adult court. Adult court is a justice system designed for adults in the eyes of the law. This means anyone over the age of eighteen who is accused of committing a crime.

If a person’s case goes to adult court, they will be tried by a judge and a jury. A jury of their peers will determine if they believe the defendant is innocent or guilty of the charges against them. The prosecutor, the defense attorney, and sometimes the judge will come to an agreement regarding the penalties that the defendant faces if convicted. The law outlines general parameters for penalties, and sometimes requires minimum penalties for convictions of certain crimes.

If a defendant has to serve a jail or prison sentence upon conviction, they do so in a facility with other adults. A conviction will also go on their criminal record, and they must inform employers, public housing projects, government aide programs, and more of their conviction(s). This can affect a person’s life even after they get out of jail. A conviction on a criminal record makes it more difficult to find employment and partake in government sponsored programs. This will be true for the rest of their life, unless they apply for and receive a pardon.

You might be wondering why this information matters for your child if they are under the age of eighteen. It is because the prosecutor can petition to have your child’s case transferred to adult court, even if they are a minor. This might happen in some situations where a juvenile is a repeat offender, or if they are charged with a serious offense. Because of the serious penalties associated with adult court, you should do everything you can to prevent a transfer to adult court for your child.

Juvenile Court

While it isn’t perfect, the juvenile justice system is much more forgiving than the adult one in this country. This is because the main objective of the juvenile court is to rehabilitate juvenile offenders, instead of punish them. In order to achieve this goal, there are a few notable differences between juvenile court and adult court.

In juvenile court, there is no jury. Instead, lawyers work with a judge to determine the best way to handle the situation. Penalties also tend to be less severe in juvenile court, including probation and fines instead of jail time. Juvenile court proceedings are also closed to the public, and juvenile records are sealed. The expungement process for juvenile records is also easier than the pardon process is for those with regular criminal convictions.

As mentioned earlier, some juvenile cases can be transferred to adult court. In order to avoid this, contact my office. I can work with the prosecutor in an attempt to prevent this.

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