When a minor is facing criminal charges, many aspects of his or her future are at stake. It can be frightening and overwhelming for a young individual to navigate the criminal justice system, especially when appearing in court. If you are the parent of a juvenile offender, you probably have many questions about what will happen and what this could mean for your child in the weeks, months and years ahead. It can be helpful to seek an understanding of what to expect in juvenile court.
Juvenile court works differently from the normal criminal court process. While adult offenders are placed under arrest, juvenile offenders are detained. There are other differences that could make a difference in your child’s case, and when you have an understanding of what will happen, you will be in a better position to defend your child’s rights.
Facing charges as a juvenile
The intent of charging young offenders differently from adults is to keep a one-time incident from affecting the future of the minor. Records from juvenile court are sealed, which means they are not public record, and in some cases, the court may expunge a juvenile’s record on his or her 18th birthday. This may be possible if the juvenile offender has demonstrated good behavior and has not had other charges against him or her. The actual juvenile court process is typically much less formal than the criminal justice process for adult defendants.
Punishments for crimes committed by juvenile offenders differ from case to case. In these cases, the court tends to focus more on rehabilitating the offender. Penalties will likely not cause long-term negative consequences for the minor. The penalties your child may face depend on factors unique to his or her situation, including the type of alleged crime, the jurisdiction where he or she is facing charges and more.
Your child’s future
While it can be daunting to learn your child is facing criminal charges, there is much you can do to protect his or her rights and interests going forward. You may take definitive action by seeking experienced guidance and an explanation of his or her defense options as soon as possible after being detained. Even if charged as a juvenile, it is critical that you take his or her case seriously and seek the best possible outcome that will preserve long-term interests.