The juvenile court system works in a completely different manner than the adult criminal justice system. Minors with cases in juvenile court generally will not face a prison sentence or the risk of creating a permanent criminal record. Nonetheless, a Delaware County juvenile defense lawyer may be able to guide minors and their families through this often-complex process that can significantly impact their lives.
The focus of regular criminal proceedings is to punish the adult who broke the law. In contrast, the focus of the juvenile court is to provide minors with the rehabilitation, guidance, and family supports that they need to live a better life. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to help protect their rights and ensure that minors get the full range of treatment and services that they need.
Juvenile court proceedings are specifically designed to prevent minors from ending up in the adult criminal court system. When minors make mistakes, the goal is to get them back on the right path and fix the problems that led them to make errors in judgment in the first place. With support, teens may be able to remain in their homes and communities with additional support and resources.
There are situations in which juveniles may face adult court proceedings, but those situations are rare. A teenager who is at least 14 or older who commits a violent crime, for instance, is likely to face formal criminal charges in adult court rather than juvenile court proceedings. In this instance, the teenager would be facing a prison sentence, just like any adult facing the same degree of criminal charges.
Instead of facing criminal charges, minors whom law enforcement authorities have accused of committing crimes will face a dependency petition. A hearing will be held in which the district attorney presents evidence to prove that the teen broke the law. The judge then will decide whether the individuals violated the law.
If the judge finds that the juvenile committed the crime, then a disposition hearing determines the sentence or legal consequences for the juvenile. A juvenile defense attorney in Delaware County may be able to fight for the least restrictive penalties for youths that also are most effective in meeting their individual needs.
In some cases, a sentence may include time spent in a juvenile detention facility, particularly for repeat offenders or juveniles with no parental or family support. More commonly, youths serve a period of probation during which they agree to follow specific rules. Common types of rules in juvenile probation may include:
Juveniles also may be required to complete mental health evaluations, counseling, and other treatment recommended by counselors. In cases involving drugs or alcohol, they may need to attend educational classes addressing substance abuse. These individuals must comply with the terms of their sentence or risk going back to court for imposition of a harsher punishment.
If juveniles successfully complete their sentences, their records will be sealed. As a result, when employers perform background checks, there will be no evidence of a criminal record that might deter them from hiring the individuals. An experienced juvenile defense lawyer in Delaware County may be able to help these individuals to maintain a clean slate while still atoning for the mistakes that they have made.
Although juveniles face a rehabilitative rather than a punitive court system in most instances, they still can face adverse consequences as a result of their actions. They may find themselves behind their peers in school, removed from their families, and lose out on valuable work experiences. It is best to speak to a Delaware County juvenile defense lawyer for advice with their case.
A robust legal advocate may be able to work with your family, probation officers, counselors, and others to minimize interruptions to education and extracurricular activities. By developing a clear defense strategy, legal counsel may be able to help your teen resolve juvenile court proceedings more favorably. Call today to get started building your defense