If a juvenile commits a crime, he or she is generally tried in juvenile court. Juvenile court differs from adult court in many ways. One main difference is that the goal of juvenile court is to rehabilitate offenders, as opposed to punishing them.
Juvenile court seeks to prevent future criminal activity committed by these juvenile offenders. In the hope of doing this, juveniles are not simply incarcerated as adult criminals are. Instead, there are more options for juveniles who commit crimes. These disposition options will vary based on the juvenile offender’s personal situation and the circumstances of his or her crime.
Incarceration can be ordered for a juvenile who commits a serious crime; however, the judge has the freedom to order confinement in a variety of different ways. Confinement for a juvenile can include:
- Adult jail. If a minor is tried in adult court, he or she could face a prison sentence served in county jail or a state prison.
- House arrest/confinement. A minor can be ordered to stay at home as a punishment. Exceptions for house arrest include counseling, work, school, etc.
- Juvenile and adult jail. A judge can order a juvenile to attend a juvenile detention facility until he or she is of age to attend an adult prison. This is also referred to as blended sentencing.
- Juvenile detention facility/juvenile hall. These facilities are meant for short-term stays for juveniles only.
- Probation. This can come after a sentence in juvenile hall or as an alternative to juvenile hall.
- Probation allows the state to remain involved in the juvenile’s life without keeping him or her in jail or a detention facility.
Placement with someone who is not a parent or guardian. Sometimes, minors get into trouble because they need a change of pace. In order to give a juvenile offender a fresh start, a judge can order that he or she live with a different relative or in a foster home for an extended period of time.
Secured juvenile facilities. These facilities are similar to detention facilities, but they are meant for long-term stays. A juvenile offender could spend months or years at one of these facilities.
Appealing a Sentence
In adult court, you can appeal a sentence determined by a judge or a jury. Similarly, juveniles have the right to appeal a disposition order imposed on him or her. Juveniles also have the right to ask a court to modify the sentence handed down by the juvenile court. This is referred to as a post-disposition change. If a judge believes that a modification to the sentence can benefit the minor, he or she can make that change.
A range of incarceration options are available to allow the court to rehabilitate juveniles to the best of its ability. Because all offenders are not the same, it is important to have options to fit the needs of each individual.