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As a parent or guardian, hearing that your child has been accused of a crime can be devastating but it is important not to panic. According to the Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center in 2013 more than 54,000 juveniles were arrested for misdemeanor offenses in the state of California alone with a further 31,000 arrested for more serious felony offenses. The juvenile criminal justice system can seem confusing and regardless of the severity of the crime that your child has been accused of you will want to ensure that they receive the best possible representation by a lawyer you trust and may be asking yourself whether you need to hire a specialist juvenile attorney.
What is juvenile delinquency?
If your child has been accused of a crime then you may be hearing a lot of new terms and phrases right now, including the term ‘juvenile delinquency’. Juvenile delinquency is a way to refer to the action of participating in wrongdoing or acting bad behavior by a minor who is aged between the ages of 14 – 18. The age for a minor can vary from state to state and country to country but in general ends at 18 years of age when the individual is then classed and charged as an adult. If you are unsure as to whether your child fits within the juvenile category it’s best to speak to an attorney.
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
The crime that your child has been accused of will either be classed as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on its severity. A misdemeanor is a minor offense such as the theft of a low-value item or possession of a small personal quantity of drugs and will often result in fewer penalties which will be less severe. A felony, on the other hand, is a serious offense and includes crimes such as sexual assault, violence, drug dealing, and gang-related activity and can come with far more serious consequences. In some cases, it has also been known for children who have been convicted of serious felonies to have been tried as an adult which can then incur much more severe adult penalties.
What is the difference between facing trial as a juvenile and an adult?
The crimes committed by juveniles and those committed by adults may be classified in very similar ways but the way in which their case is handled, and the sentences that the accused may face if found guilty, are often very different. In adult cases, the accused is convicted by a jury and may receive bail, whereas in juvenile cases there isn’t a jury trial and instead the case is heard by a commissioner or judge who then hands down their ruling. Juveniles are also not able to take bail, although in certain circumstances they may be released to their parents or guardians instead.
What penalties can juveniles face?
When deciding their sentencing the judge or commissioner in charge of your child’s case will take into consideration the background of your child, the nature of their offense and whether they have been in trouble with the law before. Individuals for which this is their first offense often receive far less stringent penalties in the hope that they will not repeat their behavior. For repeat offenders or those who have conducted more serious crimes, the judge or commissioner must think more carefully about their sentencing and they may hand down far stricter repercussions.
The penalties that juveniles can face if convicted vary from state to state, however, the goal of any juvenile justice system is rehabilitation. Rehabilitation can be achieved in a number of different ways such as through treatment programs, detention centers, and youth facilities, however many young offenders are offered informal or formal probation instead and will undergo community supervision at home.
Should you hire a specialist juvenile lawyer?
Regardless of the severity of the crime that your child has been accused of you will want to speak to a defense attorney who can guide you through the justice process and ensure that you receive the best possible outcome. Although many adult lawyers do take juvenile cases you also have the option to use a specialist juvenile lawyer who is experienced in representing minors. Juvenile lawyers are experts in dealing with juvenile delinquency cases and can help to offer guidance and comfort to both yourselves and your child as you undergo the legal process. Your decision to hire a specialist juvenile lawyer is entirely up to you and maybe influenced by factors such as your financial situation and the severity of the accusation against your child, whichever lawyer you choose, at the end of the day what matters most is that you find someone that will fight for you and defend your child rigorously,