Juvenile Law

  • By:David Bate
Juvenile criminal law is an area of criminal justice that addresses transgressions by kids. While very violent felonies may lead to the juvenile being charged as an adult, the law generally recognizes that young people lack the capacity to fully understand their actions and cannot truly consent. Juvenile law is under state jurisdiction, but is guided by The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act, which defines juvenile crimes as those committed by anyone under 18 and outlines the rules that states must comply with for juvenile procedures. Juvenile courts are specialized courts with their own code that seek to rehabilitate rather than punish young people who get caught up in the system.

The juvenile code acknowledges that underage people cannot be culpable for their crimes so it addresses crimes committed by youth differently. However, there are crimes so heinous that age is not a factor. For violent felonies, like some cases of murder or rape, underage people are sometimes tried and convicted as adults.

But this is rare. Usually, the goal is rehabilitation there are numerous possible consequences for juvenile offenses. Besides fines, young people may have to participate in counseling and community service or restitution. In more serious cases they may have to attend special treatment programs, along the lines of anger management or group therapy. And in cases where the child has issues related to addiction or abuse, social services may intervene to provide inpatient treatment, hospitalization, monitoring or family interventions. The most serious consequence is serving time in a juvenile facility.

Parents and guardians of juvenile offenders have consequences to face as well. The main cost to parents is a financial one, where fines and fees for treatment and sometimes detention are billed to them. Parents may also be responsible for damages caused by the actions of the at-fault juvenile.  Additionally, parents may become part of a supervision plan if the child has a sentence that keeps them under house arrest. Furthermore, parents or guardians may have to participate in treatments. While many of these results seem sensible on their face, for families who are poor or single parent households, the burdens can be significant in terms of time, money, and stress.

The juvenile justice system makes efforts to reform child offenders so that they do not become adult ones. In keeping with this sensibility, juvenile crimes are often eligible for expungement usually once the juvenile turns 18. This means that the juvenile record may be sealed and the offenses do not have to be disclosed by the person in background checks. Expungement is used interchangeably with sealing, although some states make distinctions between the two. Either way, a petition is filed and the court reviews the case with the offender’s age at the time heavily considered along with the type of crime and the rest of the individual’s record.

Juvenile crime is a specialized area of the law designed to meet the unique needs of a compromised child. An experienced Denver attorney versed in juvenile law understands this best and will support efforts to help the child rectify the situation and help the family to move forward.

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Thanks to our friends at Hebets & McCallin for their insight into Juvenile Law!

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