When a juvenile breaks the law, there are two possibilities after the arrest, depending on the type of charges involved. Underage offenders who commit minor offenses are brought into the juvenile court system. Juveniles who commit more serious crimes—drug and/or weapons possessions, assault and other felonies—are generally tried as an adult in the criminal justice system. The focus of the juvenile court system is rehabilitation and intervention, rather than punishment, the focus of the adult criminal justice system.
This term has a number of meanings in different places. Black’s Law Dictionary defines adjudication as “the giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree in a cause; also the judgment given.”
In Raleigh, North Carolina, “adjudication” in juvenile court is the equivalent of the term “conviction” for an adult in criminal court. Court proceedings are handled in state court.
What Is Adjudication?
Juvenile cases are similar to adult court proceedings. The trial is called an “adjudicatory hearing,” where a judge (and in some jurisdictions, a jury) reviews the evidence and determines the facts prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. If he or she has been found “guilty” in juvenile court, the verdict is called “adjudication.”
An adjudication does not always mean incarceration (also called “commitment”) as it might in an adult criminal court. Since the focus is on rehabilitation before the age of 18 (and sometimes, 21), there are a number of alternatives to jail time that a juvenile can receive.
Deferred adjudication (also called Diversion) is an alternative to incarceration that may involve probation or other conditions that the juvenile will have to meet to resolve, and possibly dismiss the charge or charges. Deferred adjudication is frequently used in cases where the circumstances of the case warrant giving the juvenile a second chance.
The Disposition is the equivalent of a sentence and is the final decision on how the juvenile’s case will be handled after adjudication. Again, rehabilitation is the goal, so the disposition can include:
- Fines and restitution
- Community service
- In-home placement under supervision or probation
- Out of home placement in commitment facilities
Disposition can also involve a specific treatment plan to address conditions in the child’s current behavior and living environment.
Adjudication is also not a matter of public record as standard criminal convictions are.
As an adult, a conviction in criminal court is a different matter, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual did commit the crime in question. Depending on the severity of the charges and the outcome, fines, loss of a driver’s license, and jail time are possibilities.
While juvenile charges may, eventually, be reduced or dismissed, adult criminal convictions aren’t as easy to lose. A conviction, even if no jail time is involved, can bring difficult restrictions that may be lifelong obstacles, such as:
- Losing the right to vote
- Barred from holding a public office
- Barred from serving as a juror
- Restrictions from many types of employment that require licensure (health care workers, attorneys, barbers and cosmetologists, and others), depending on the charges
Employment restrictions may depend on the type of charges one is convicted of; but discharge from employment is also possible in occupations where “moral turpitude” is a factor. Once discharged after a criminal conviction, unemployment can also be denied.
Convictions can be expunged under certain circumstances. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you remove a conviction from your record, or appeal if necessary.
Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney In Raleigh
Children in trouble can be a parent’s worst nightmare, but help is available. Attorney Dewey P. Brinkley is a former Wake County prosecutor who understands the court system and can help defend your child in juvenile or adult court. Call today: 919-832-0307 (or contact him online) to schedule an appointment for your free initial consultation.