Children who break the law are generally treated differently after their arrest, especially if the crimes they are charged with are minor, nonviolent and aren’t considered felonies.
Over 100 years ago, arrested juveniles were sent to jail with hardened, dangerous criminals. The juvenile justice system in the US was created in 1899 to separate young people from the adult criminal population. The focus was on punishment for juvenile crimes as well as rehabilitation to keep them away from a life of crime and live productively.
Because of this long-held mindset, when a juvenile is arrested, he or she has a number of options for rehabilitation that an adult offender would simply receive in a jail sentence.
The Benefits Of Juvenile Court
As a parent, you never want to hear that your child has been arrested. When it happens, there are key differences in the way a child is treated than an adult.
Any infraction that a juvenile commits is called a “delinquent act,” not a crime. However, older juveniles who commit violent or serious crimes are tried and sentenced as adults, no matter what their age.
Juveniles have “adjudication hearings” instead of trials. Since these hearings are heard by judges, they are not subjected to open court as they would be in a criminal court trial.
If the delinquent acts are not violent, prerelease is possible.
Juvenile records are sealed so that their criminal record does not follow them around for life. If the individual has met certain conditions, such as completing community service, anger management or other rehabilitative orders, the record can be expunged when he or she turns 18.
Juveniles also have the right to an attorney, including a public defender at no charge.
Rights of A Juvenile
Unlike adult court, a juvenile arrest does not include the right to have:
- Jury trial
- Speedy trial
Should a juvenile be transferred to adult criminal court, these rights are restored. However, if tried as an adult, a juvenile will be subjected to prison sentences and a permanent criminal record.
A juvenile does have the right to:
- Remain silent and decline to answer questions
- Have an attorney present during questioning
- Have a parent, custodian or guardian present during questioning
However, your defense goal should be to keep a juvenile out of the adult criminal justice system, and ensure that he or she is not tried as an adult.
Currently, 16- and 17-year olds are tried as adults in North Carolina, even for nonviolent offenses. In December of this year, that will change, and they will be tried and treated as juveniles until the age of 18. Currently, North Carolina is the only state that tries them as adults. The “Raise The Age” reform is estimated to keep more than 5,000 teenagers out of the criminal justice system every year, saving them from a permanent criminal record.
When A Juvenile Is Tried As An Adult
Young people who commit juvenile crimes such as drugs, weapons possession, assaults, alcohol/tobacco possession or usage and other serious felonies are automatically tried as adults.
There are three ways that an individual can be sent to adult criminal court for juvenile crmes:
- Previous adult charge—if the juvenile has had a prior case transferred, they will always be sent to adult court
- Discretionary waiver—should a juvenile of 13 or older be charged with an adult felony offense, the juvenile court can request a transfer to an adult criminal court
- Mandatory waiver—a juvenile court is required to transfer a juvenile of 13 or older to adult criminal court if he or she is charged with an adult felony and there is a motion ordering the court to do so
If the prosecutor or court is asking for your child’s case to be transferred to adult criminal court, he or she can defend themselves against the request. The court must have probable cause demonstrated at a hearing before the transfer can take place.
Raleigh Juvenile Court Attorney
Dealing with juvenile court can be a harrowing experience, but a court-appointed attorney is not your only option. Having a defense attorney who can help you and your child through the system can make things a lot easier, and ensure that your child’s rights are protected.
Dewey P. Brinkley is a former Wake County Assistant District Attorney. He can aggressively defend your child in juvenile or adult court against any charges, major or minor, and work with you through the entire judicial process. Call our juvenile defense attorney today at 919-832-0307 or use our contact page to schedule your free consultation.