Juvenile Court vs Adult Court- 7 Key Differences to Know
A criminal charge on a permanent personal record can lead to a person having serious trouble in the future. These charges and the conditions in which they are pressed are different for juveniles when compared with adults.
Being tried as a juvenile is always better than as an adult, particularly because the penalties are less severe & the focus is rehabilitation and not punishment.
Similarly, there are a lot of notable differences between Juvenile court and Adult court. Follow along as we take a deeper dive and understand what those differences are so you can understand why you need a juvenile defense attorney vs a criminal defense attorney.
In need of a FREE CONSULT with a Baltimore Juvenile Attorney? Contact us!
Who is a Juvenile Under the law?
Before we understand the differences, let’s take a look at how a juvenile is classified.
The most basic factor when considering a person to register as a juvenile is their age. In most states in America, a person should be in the age bracket of 10-18 to be considered a juvenile. And though the basic assumption is that people under 18 are considered juvenile, that’s not true. If the nature of the offense is quite severe, an offender is treated as an adult even if they’re 16 – this is why it’s important to hire juvenile defense attorneys in Baltimore to fight for your child’s rights and rehabilitation.
The type of crime decides the classification as much as the age does. A person who has committed a first-degree felony will be transferred to an adult court unquestionably. Additionally, if a minor is found to have an elaborate record of criminal activities, in that case too they’re considered for adult court.
The right criminal case attorney in Baltimore can help defend your child no matter how they are being charged.
Differences between Juvenile Court and Adult court
1. Judge hearings vs Jury trials
Adults with criminal charges have a right to a jury trial, which is not the case for juvenile trials. In a juvenile trial, a judge assesses the facts presented in favor of the case and against and rules out a decision.
Normally, a decision is made keeping the best interest of the alleged offender in mind. And that’s why the records of the proceedings are kept private so as to not damage the future chances of employment and education for the minor. A juvenile defense attorney can help in either situation.
2. Complaint vs Petition
For an adult who’s been charged for a crime, the document used for reporting is called a “complaint”. In the case of the juvenile court, a document called “petition” is used to press charges. This wording can help clarify how the proceedings are going to follow.
If you’re unsure, consult with your local Baltimore juvenile defense attorney to understand how your child is being charged.
3. Conviction vs Deliquention
When adults commit a crime they’re charged with convictions. On the other hand, when a minor commits a crime, it is referred to as a delinquent act.
An act of that nature can be unlawful conduct, such as trespassing, theft, underage drinking, or drinking and driving. But if the crimes committed by the minor are of a serious degree, murder for example, then the matter is shifted to adult court.
A free consult with a juvenile defense attorney can help you anticipate how to handle the coming charges and proceedings.
4. Court sentence
If a minor is found to be guilty of an offense that’s not severe, the most likely outcome they may face is probation under supervision. Under probation, the person charged can be asked to do community work or pay for a financial reinstitution.
If the crime had to do with the use of substances, they may be required to enter a counselling program. Baltimore criminal defense attorneys help to negotiate these court sentences.
Additionally, treatment programs are to be followed by minors having substance abuse issues. If a minor complies with the requirements, on a good day they can avoid getting the crime mentioned on their permanent record. Whatever be the case, the inclination of the state is to always offer rehabilitation programs over punishments.
It’s important to note that what’s mentioned will not be true if the case is transferred to adult court. A person of the age of 14 and above who’s committed a serious crime, will be liable for serious punishment, such as serving years in adult prison.
5. Informal nature of Juvenile courts
Juvenile courts, in comparison to adult courts, are more informal. The primary reason for this is that judges in juvenile court are more focused on rehabilitation than punishment.
In adult courts, the goal is to punish serious offenders mostly by sentencing them to decades in prison, reasonably so, they are more serious in operation.
In a juvenile court, the key goal is to prevent the crime from happening again and consequently improve the life of the accused.
This doesn’t mean you don’t need an experienced juvenile attorney, however — it’s important to have someone on your side who can work out the legal jargon and advocate for the right course of action.
In the adult court, expungements are generally a lengthy process. Although applying for an expungement can be done under restricted conditions, it may not always be granted.
The deciding factors, in this case, are the severity of a record, number of crimes, nature of crimes & duration of pressed charges.
In the case of juvenile crimes, applying for an expungement can be done anytime. If the nature of the crime is not severe, the record of a minor can be expunged and they are given a chance to have a good life. Your Baltimore attorney can help you understand the process and walk you through it.
7. Sealed Records
Similar to how juvenile hearings are conducted in a closed court- with only the child, lawyer and family present – the record of crime is not open for public access. Unless the crime committed by a minor is considered a first, second or third-degree offense, the minor’s record should only be accessible to relevant legal authorities.
Normally, if the minor behaves properly during probation, the record may be expunged. Otherwise, unless it’s a serious crime, the record is expunged five years after the minor’s release from custody.
Similarities between Adult Court and Juvenile Court
- Right to an attorney when needed
- The right to know the charges against oneself
- Right to confront witnesses relating to the trial
- Right to know the charges pressed against oneself
If you’re a parent and your child has been charged for unlawful behavior, you should contact a Baltimore juvenile lawyer immediately. A criminal lawyer will guide you on all your rights and offer the best course of defense.
As you know, legal procedures can be a mess and it’s always better to have an experience juvenile lawyer by your side.