What Is A "Juvenile Offender"?
A juvenile offender is an offender who is too young to be tried as an
adult. The age at which a person can be tried as an adult varies between
states, but is ordinarily the age of seventeen or eighteen. This age can
go down for certain serious offenses, such as homicide or sexual assault.
What Happens In "Juvenile Court"?
When a juvenile is charged with a criminal offense and is sent to a juvenile
court, the focus is ordinarily on what will rehabilitate the juvenile,
rather than on punishment. Often, the offender will be said to have committed
a "delinquent act," as opposed to a "criminal offense."
The juvenile court has broad discretion to tailor a sentence to the needs
of a young offender. This is not to say that juveniles are not sentenced
to prision - many states have large juvenile prisons and treatment facilities.
It is understood that some juvenile offenders are very dangerous, despite
their age, and that incarceration can be appropriate.
What Rights Do Juveniles Have In Juvenile Court?
The specific rights afforded to a juvenile offender vary significantly
from state to state. In some states, juveniles have the right to trial
by jury, while in others they have no such right. Juvenile courts tend
to be less formal than adult courts. Sometimes, the rules of evidence
will be more relaxed, and evidence will be heard to judge the juvenile's
"delinquency" which would not be allowed at an adult's criminal
What Is "Waiver" To Adult Court?
A juvenile offender who has committed a serious offense may be waived
from juvenile court to adult court. Sometimes this is a discretionary
waiver, where the prosecutor files a motion to have the young offender
tried as an adult. After a hearing, where evidence is presented for and
against a waiver, the judge decides whether the offender should be tried
as a juvenile or an adult. Sometimes, this is a mandatory waiver, where
the law requires the young offender to be tried as an adult. Many states
have passed laws allowing prosecutors to file adult charges against juveniles
for certain serious offenses, without having to apply for a waiver.
A juvenile tried in adult court receives all of the rights granted to
an adult defendant, including the right to a jury.
If A Juvenile Is Convicted In Adult Court, Will He
Be Sentenced As An Adult?
The answer to this question varies from state to state, and sometimes
from charge to charge. Some states grant a judge the discretion to sentence
a juvenile offender as a juvenile, even though he was tried as an adult.
Some states mix the sentence, imposing both a juvenile and an adult sentence.
In such states, the adult sentence is only imposed if the juvenile violates
the terms of his juvenile sentence. Sometimes, the Court will sentence
the juvenile as an adult -- a result that can be very harsh in murder
cases, where the juvenile may be sentenced to life in prison without the
possibility of parole.
Will A Juvenile's Record Be Sealed When He Becomes
This depends upon state law, and can vary significantly depending upon
such factors as subsequent criminal activity or the type of crime committed.
If a juvenile is convicted of certain sex offenses, he may be required
to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, regardless of
his age at the time of conviction. In some states which automatically
seal a juvenile's record once he passes a certain age, that record may
remain unsealed if the defendant is convicted of an adult offense before
he reaches that age. In some states, a person must petition a court to
seal a juvenile record shortly after reaching the age of majority, or
the record will remain public.