An Overview of Juvenile Court
When an adult is arrested, it is understandable that they experience anxiety. When a child is arrested, the parents may experience a variety of emotions, ranging from fear to anger to confusion. Part of the fear of having a child arrested is a misconception or lack of knowledge about juvenile court. If you have never had dealing with juvenile court, the following can assist you in understanding the processes.
What It Is
Each state has a system of juvenile courts to deal with minor offenders. Whether your child has been arrested for underage drinking or simple assault, you will likely be heading to juvenile court (unless they have committed a very serious offense). The prosecutor will ask the court to determine that the child is delinquent, a case will proceed in much the same manner as it would in the adult court system.
Who Is Eligible
Not every offender is eligible for juvenile court, regardless of their age. In most states, the maximum age for a person to be heard in juvenile court is 18. Most states also set minimum age limits. For example, a child under the age of 7 who commits a crime is normally excused of that responsibility as it is presumed that they do not have the maturity to understand the scope of their actions.
Most juvenile court cases involve minors between the ages of 14 and older. In some, more serious, cases, a minor can be tried as an adult. This may occur if the crime is a serious felony or the criminal act severely injured another.
More Discretion than Regular Court
While juveniles will go through a court process, there are specifics that differ from those in the adult system. Namely, courts are given more discretion in sentencing. A juvenile proceeding is typically not as formal as an adult hearing, with judges, prosecutors, police and even families all having a broader say in the process. Typically, the goal is for the juvenile to realize their error and to rehabilitate them to the point that they will not offend again.
When a juvenile is taken to court for a crime, incarceration is not as likely as it is in regular court for similar offenses. A juvenile who is found guilty of underage consumption, for example, may be sentenced to counseling, house arrest, probation or more. There are a variety of dispositions available in juvenile court that are not found in adult court.
Even though the chances of a juvenile being incarcerated for a first or minor offense are slight, being charged with a crime is nonetheless serious. Any parent with a child that has been charged with a crime should consult an attorney experienced in juvenile criminal law for assistance.
If your child has been charged with underage drinking in Atlanta, call our experienced team of defense attorneys for a free case evaluation. We will meet with you and your family at no cost to you and advise you of your legal options. Call today to schedule your consultation.