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How Does the Juvenile Justice System Differ From the Adult Justice System?

Juvenile Justice System vs. Adult Justice System

When someone commits a legal offense or a crime, he or she is subject to punishment in accordance with their federal and state governments. However, the way in which that person may be penalized often depends greatly on their age. The legal system typically understands that younger delinquents usually have time to reform and change their ways, whereas adult criminals may be seen as more of a threat. Juveniles, those under the age of 18, are usually tried in juvenile court, rather than in the adult justice system. The adult justice system is often far harsher and can lead to serious, life-long consequences. The juvenile court, on the other hand, may sometimes be more lenient and more understanding of the guilty party’s age and ability to change his or her ways.

If you were arrested or accused of committing a crime or delinquency, you need to take action to defend yourself immediately. If you are 18 years old or younger, it is important that you understand the key differences between the adult and juvenile justice systems.

Essential Differences

The intent of each justice system sets the stage for all of the other differences between the two. While adult courts intend to punish the guilty, juvenile adults focus on correcting behaviors and rehabilitating delinquent children. The juvenile court will aim to teach kids of their wrongdoing, penalizing them while also providing them with the schooling and counseling they need to help them become law-abiding citizens and contributing members of society. The ultimate goal of juvenile courts is to keep children out of jail, while the same can certainly not be said of the adult justice system.

The key differences between the adult and juvenile justice systems include:

  • Adult courts are more formal and strict than juvenile courts.

  • Juveniles tried in court are heard by a judge in an adjudication hearing and are not allowed a public trial. Adults tried in court do have the right to a public trial.

  • Juveniles who commit some sort of wrongdoing commit a “delinquent act,” whereas adults commit “crimes.”

  • Juvenile records are sealed and typically expunged when the child becomes an adult. While adults can sometimes have their criminal records expunged, it is not guaranteed.

The Similarities

While the two court systems may be very different, there are a few ways in which they are fundamentally the same. Both the adult and juvenile justice systems allow the defendant a right to an attorney. Even though juvenile court aims to correct bad behavior, it is still extremely important to obtain legal representation in juvenile court. Juvenile delinquencies could result still result in serious consequences, including enrollment in a rehabilitation program, mandatory counseling, court-ordered community service, or time in a correctional facility. In some circumstances, the child may even be tried as an adult, though this only happens if the crime is particularly serious or the child is near the age of 18.

The consequences of adult crimes are much more serious, and can include incarceration, costly fines, mandatory community services, and will likely result in a criminal record.

If you are facing charges for some offense or crime, or if your child is having trouble with the law, our firm can help. We can assess your situation and develop defensive strategies for your case, whether you are tried as an adult or a minor.

Contact Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. to get started on your juvenile or adult criminal defense case today.

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