How the Criminal Process Differs for Juveniles

Oct 15, 2020
by The AMA Law Team

How the Criminal Process Differs for Juveniles

The criminal process is complicated, especially for those who have no experience with it. While each criminal case varies in severity and how it progresses, each follows a similar process. However, the criminal process is much different for juveniles than it is for adults. After all, the law views these individuals as children. Naturally, they face special treatment for their criminal actions compared to their adult counterparts.

Even if the juvenile in question committed the same crime that an adult did, the justice system treats them vastly different than adults. From the terms used to the treatment offenders face, the juvenile criminal process differs from that for adults. Typically, the penalties juveniles face are significantly less severe than the punishment for adults.

Because the juvenile criminal process is so different, it pays to have the aid of an experienced juvenile crime attorney on your side. At AMA Law, our team of knowledgeable attorneys has years of experience working on a wide array of juvenile cases. We understand how impactful criminal charges can be on your child’s future, which is why we are here to help.

If your child faces criminal charges, give AMA Law a call today, so we can begin working on protecting your child’s future.

What is a Juvenile? 

Each state has its own definition of a juvenile. Typically, a juvenile is a defendant under the age of 18, who the court system does not consider an adult yet. They usually go home under supervision until their court date when they have been charged with a crime. For adults, they typically spend this time in a holding facility. In instances where they must detain a juvenile, however, they must go to a juvenile detention center or a facility separate from where they. Keep adults.

Three Ways of Being Charged

The state of Oklahoma passed the Oklahoma Youthful Offenders Act in 1994, which allows for juveniles accused of crimes to be charged in one of three ways: juvenile delinquent, youthful offender, and an adult.

The juvenile court system does not convict juvenile delinquents of their crimes but considers them “adjudicated delinquents.” Typically, this status is for younger minors that committed minor offenses (petty theft, drug possession, public intoxication, etc.).

Youthful offenders are typically teens between 15-17 who committed serious crimes. If convicted, they will begin their sentence in the juvenile system. If they turn 18 while serving their sentence, they might transfer to an adult holding facility to complete their sentence. This status allows the state to levy harsher punishments for some offenses but still provides opportunities for rehabilitation that would not be available to them if the system convicts them as an adult.

However, the juvenile system could hold them until they are 20 if need be. A youthful offender receives an adult sentence, but if they show progress during rehabilitation, they can get out earlier.

Minors only face adult charges under very severe circumstances. A person as young as 13 can face these charges for crimes such as first-degree murder. Depending on the crime and the juvenile’s record, they could face charges for either one of these three.

What are the Most Common Juvenile Offenses? 

As with adults, there are a host of crimes that juveniles often commit. Some are minor (petty theft), while others are serious offenses (such as murder). Each case will vary depending on a number of factors. However, these are some of the most frequent offenses juveniles frequently make:

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) reported 728,280 arrests of individuals younger than 18 in 2018. The above crimes were some of the most commonly committed by juveniles.

Differences between Juvenile and Adult Court

While each state has its own set of rules and ways they run their courts, there are some general differences between juvenile and adult courts across the country, whether in terminology or the process a juvenile defendant experiences.

Some of these include:

  • Delinquent Acts: In most juvenile court systems, they do not consider juveniles as criminals but rather “adjudicated delinquents.” Additionally, they don’t deem the actions they did as crimes but rather “delinquent acts.”
  • Petition: While adults will file a complaint in a criminal case, a juvenile case requires a petition. A petition is the charging document the state files in juvenile court.
  • Adjudication: When a court tries an adult offender for a crime and finds them guilty, they convict the offender of that crime. In the case of a juvenile crime, the court finds the offender as an “adjudicated delinquent.”
  • Disposition: When a court finds an adult guilty of a crime, they hand them a sentence as punishment. For a juvenile crime, the juvenile receives a “disposition,” which is the final decision of how the court will handle the case.
  • Jury Trial: While adults have the right to trial by jury, juveniles do not. Instead, a judge hears their case then decides if they are guilty of a delinquent act. Additionally, a juvenile case is closed to the public, unlike an adult case.

These are just a few of the key differences between the juvenile and adult justice systems. However, as in adult court, juveniles do have the right to an attorney, the right to cross-examine and confront witnesses, and the right to not self-incriminate.

Because of these differences, having the aid of a criminal defense attorney to help guide you through this process proves helpful.

Common Punishments for Juvenile Offenses

The level of penalty juveniles face for their crimes varies from case to case, crime to crime. As you can expect, the punishment for theft is much lighter than it is for murder or rape. Juvenile defendants face many different disposition orders from juvenile courts for their delinquent actions. Usually, a juvenile will face either incarcerated or non-incarcerated dispositions.

Incarcerated options include:

  • House arrest
  • Being placed with someone other than their parent or guardian (such as a relative or foster home)
  • Juvenile detention centers
  • Secure juvenile facilities (for long term stays)
  • Adult jail (such as county jail or state prison)
    • Some delinquent juveniles begin in a juvenile facility but then move into an adult jail when they reach the age of majority (18).

Non-incarcerated options include:

  • Verbal reprimand
  • Fines
  • Counseling (typically accompanies other punishments)
  • Community service
  • Electronic monitoring (must wear a wrist or ankle bracelet that tracks their location)
  • Probation

The punishments in juvenile cases are far more lenient than in adult cases. The juvenile court system believes in rehabilitating juveniles instead of outright punishing them. An Oklahoma criminal defense attorney can work with you to help ensure your child does not receive a harsh punishment.

Contact an Oklahoma Juvenile Crime Attorney 

The juvenile criminal justice process differs from the adult criminal justice process. From who hears your case to the leniency of the punishment, juvenile defendants face a much different procedure than adults. The criminal process is complicated as is, but when it involves a juvenile, it becomes even more complicated.

If your child faces criminal charges, reach out to our Oklahoma criminal defense law firm. One of our juvenile crime attorneys will be able to help you navigate this process to protect your child’s future. Give AMA Law a call today to learn how we can help.