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 the juvenile offenders who pass through the court system. In the hope of doing this, juveniles are given many different options when it comes to punishments. These disposition options will vary based on the juvenile offender’s personal situation and the circumstances of his or her crime. The punishment that is best suited to the offender’s rehabilitation will be imposed on him or her.
Non-incarceration Punishment Options
A judge in juvenile court has the ability to create a punishment or rehabilitation program to meet the needs of the juvenile offender. Some of the non-incarceration options that a judge has include:
- Community service. Judges will oftentimes encourage juvenile offenders to work in their local communities in order to contribute to society and create ties in their communities.
- Counseling. Juvenile offenders might be working through emotional issues that cause them to lash out. Counseling can help to rehabilitate these minors in a non-threatening way.
- Electronic monitory. In order to keep an eye on the juvenile, a judge might require him or her to wear an ankle bracelet or a wrist bracelet. This can verify the minor’s location at any given time and will seek to keep him or her out of trouble.
- Fine. Paying compensation to victims or a fine to the government are viable punishments for juvenile offenders.
- Probation. This is not considered incarceration because the juvenile will not be in any type of detention facility. However, his or her freedom will be limited and monitored. This is the most common disposition order in juvenile court. Probation can include treatment programs, educational services (like social skills building, anger management classes, or substance abuse education and treatment) as well as additional monitoring if it is deemed appropriate.
- Verbal warning. Verbal reprimands can constitute punishment for minors. In some cases, this is all it takes to help get a kid back on the straight-and-narrow.
Much like in adult court, you can appeal a sentence determined by a judge or a jury in juvenile court. Juveniles also have the right to ask a court to change 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 implement the change.
Several non-incarceration options are available for minors. This allows the court to rehabilitate juveniles to the best of its ability. Because all cases are unique, it is important to have options that fit the needs of each individual.