One of the fastest growing area of criminal activity in America is Juvenile crimes. Juvenile crimes are measured those crimes committed by people who are under the age of eighteen. Juvenile offenders, or “juvenile delinquents,” as they are sometimes referred to, are usually handled differently than adult offenders, but an increasing trend toward harsher sentencing may erode this distinction in the near future.
The Juvenile Justice System
The juvenile justice system strives to rehabilitate and treat juvenile offenders, rather than incarcerate and remove them from society. Depending on the type and seriousness of the offense, and the offender's age and past record of criminal activity, the state may prosecute an individual under the age of eighteen as a juvenile or as an adult. This is usually accomplished through a series of diversion programs, alternative sentencing structures, and even the use of peer run “teen courts” in a number of jurisdictions. On the federal level, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act targets juvenile crimes by assisting state and local governments in providing preventative services to high-risk youths. Additionally, individual states have enacted their own statutes to regulate, punish and prevent juvenile delinquency.
As distinguished, a rising trend is to treat juvenile offenders as adults more often. If the state tries the minor as a juvenile, the case will be adjudicated in juvenile court. Juvenile courts have specific rules and procedures that are unique to the juvenile law system, and often designed to expedite the process, minimize exposure of the juvenile record to the public, etc.
The punishment of juvenile offenders also differs significantly from the punishment of adult criminals. Because the juvenile justice system seeks to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents, juvenile courts may impose a variety of flexible sentences, such as rehabilitation programs, payment of restitution to victims, imposition of court-determined curfews, mandatory school attendance, or placement in a juvenile detention facility.
The levels of security in juvenile
detention facilities vary depending on the threat that the juvenile poses to
the community, with some functioning as group homes while others resemble adult
prisons. Even when juveniles are tried as adults, they may still be given the
benefit of more lenient juvenile sentencing laws. Conversely, if a crime is
serious, juveniles as young as sixteen may be sentenced to adult prisons.
of Juvenile Crimes
Juveniles are capable of committing the same crimes as adults, with a few exceptions. On the other hand, some acts are considered delinquent simply because of the offender's status as a minor. These "status" offenses include underage consumption of alcohol, driving without a license, truancy from school and running away from home. Status offenses are typically dealt with by social services agencies and do not require intervention from the juvenile court. Certain other status crimes can expose others to criminal liability, but often not the juveniles themselves.
For illustration, juveniles are usually
not considered to be able to consent to sexual acts, so any sex act may result
in a statutory rape charge against a person over the age of consent, but
generally not against the minor, even if the act was consensual. This can apply
to situations where the minor is engaged in prostitution, as well.
More serious offenses may be charged as felonies or misdemeanors. While minors may be involved in all types of crime, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) documents three major categories of juvenile crime: violent crimes, crimes against property and drug-related crimes. Other common juvenile crimes not indexed by the OJJDP, but common examples include loitering, vagrancy, vandalism, and weapons possession. The OJJDP defines violent crimes as those that result in bodily injury (such as assault, rape, and homicide), property crimes as situations where a juvenile uses force, or the threat of force, to obtain the property of another, and drug-related crimes as those involving the possession or sale of illegal narcotics.
If you or your child has been charged with a crime, it is important to immediately contact a local attorney who is experienced in juvenile crimes. Because the juvenile laws differ from those for adults, not every attorney will be qualified to handle these types of cases. Due to the far reaching consequences of juvenile crime and the increasing tendency to treat these crimes more like adult crimes, it is very important to have the assistance of a qualified attorney.