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.
Detention Time Limitations
As a juvenile, when you get detained, there are going to be time limitations. This is good for you because you will not be locked up for an extended period of time. You should feel at ease knowing that there is a time limit set by the law that prevents you from being detained for a significant period of time. The police officer that arrests you must abide by the juvenile detention laws or he or she will be breaking a law.
In the United States, there are 22 states where children as young as seven years old can be charged as adults. Just because you can be charged as an adult does not mean that you can be kept in detention for the same amount of time as an adult. In a delinquent case, your detention hearing must be held no longer than 48 hours after being placed in the detention center. This hearing is held to decide if detention is required for you.
In an unruly case, your hearing should be held no later than 24 hours after the time you have been detained. This time limit cannot be exceeded unless the court has reason to believe that you have violated a court order. If this has happened, you cannot be kept in detention for more than 48 hours after your original detainment. In either situation, whether it be a delinquent or an unruly case, you may not be held any longer than 84 hours if there is a non-judicial day during the time of your detention. This means if there is a holiday during the time you are being kept in custody and the courts are not open, this day will not count toward the 48 hours. It will all be pushed to the next day that the courts are open.
What Does it Mean to be a Juvenile?
Almost every state in the U.S. considers a juvenile to be a person under the age of 18. In New York, Connecticut, and North Carolina a juvenile is of age 16 or less. In Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin a juvenile is of age 17 or less. The only state that considers a juvenile to be 19 or less is Wyoming. Some youths may be facing more serious crimes than others, so juvenile judges have the right to wave some cases to adult court. Your lawyer might give you instructions on how to dress and behave to help keep you in juvenile court because oftentimes the judge will be easier on a juvenile than an adult. Be sure to follow all instructions given to you because your lawyer has likely been doing this for a long time and they know what works and what doesn’t.
Time for juvenile detention will be less than an adult detention time. It is important for you to know about the times that are set because then you will know your rights and if they are being violated. Talk to a lawyer about what you should do to keep yourself safe from anything that could happen during your time in detention.