In the United States, there are two sides of the justice system: the juvenile offender's system and the criminal justice system for adults. These systems vary in numerous ways, as juvenile crimes and adult crimes are perceived and handled differently within their prospective systems. Whether you fall under the definition of a juvenile or an adult, it is important to understand how your case will likely be handled and what processes you will go through when charged with a crime. For the purposes of this article, we will address the following: (1) the difference between how juvenile and adult crimes are perceived, (2) the distinction between how these crimes are tried, (3) and the overall goal of each system.
How crimes are perceived
In Pennsylvania, an individual is considered a juvenile if he or she is below the age of 18. Violations, misdemeanor or felony offenses that are committed by juveniles are known as delinquent acts. Whereas, if these offenses are committed by adults, they are seen as a crime in the eyes of the law and the justice system. Being found guilty of a delinquent act holds a lot less weight than being convicted of a crime as an adult.
Juvenile offenders, also known as adjudicated delinquents, reserve many of the rights they had before they committed a crime. And they also face less strict expungement requirements for those who have committed juvenile crimes. The majority of juvenile records are sealed, and many are expunged completely once an adjudicated delinquent becomes an adult.
Being convicted of a crime as an adult warrants much more harsh consequences. People with criminal records experience severely limited opportunities in comparison to adults with no run ins with law enforcement and juvenile offenders. For example, adult offenders have reported not being able to land certain jobs, occupy certain residencies or be granted some government resources and benefits.
How crimes are tried
As most people know, adult trials consist of a judge and jury of their peers that will ultimately determine a defendant's guilt or innocence. In court, juveniles are not provided the right to a public trial by jury. Juvenile cases typically involve a private hearing with a judge, known as an adjudication hearing.
Goals of each system
The goals of the criminal justice system and the juvenile court system are also entirely different. Since minors are perceived as children who don't know right from wrong, courts take a more rehabilitative approach when it comes to sentencing. A juvenile sentence is intended to serve the best interest of the child, and decrease the likelihood of them committing an act again. On the other hand, the criminal justice system's goal goal appears to be to punish offenders for their actions, rather than rehabilitating and treating them.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, the differences in juvenile and adult crimes are relatively vast. It's important that anyone - whether they are a juvenile or an adult - know what they will be up against if charged with a crime. Skilled attorney Joseph D. Lento is dedicated to protecting the rights of those who find themselves in trouble with the law. Contact him today for help.