Does Juvenile Law Differ From Adult Law?

When it comes to the law, there are some significant differences between crimes carried out by juveniles and those carried out by adults. Or rather, some big differences in how those crimes are punished. This is because juveniles – in most cases, a child between the age of 10 and 18 – are considered to have little understanding of the law, and therefore there are extra protections in place. Justice still needs to be served, but there are certainly different ways to do it when it comes to a juvenile case. Read on to find out what some of these differences are. 

Delinquent Acts vs. Crimes

One of the most obvious differences between juvenile law and adult law is that adults are prosecuted for committing crimes, but juveniles are instead prosecuted for carrying out delinquent acts. In some cases, however, if the ‘delinquent act’ is a very serious, extreme one – murder would be a good example – then the court system can change the way proceedings are carried out, and the juvenile will be tried as an adult instead, meaning their juvenile act becomes a crime.  

Hearings Instead Of Trials 

When you think of someone being prosecuted for a crime (or even a delinquent act), you’ll probably think of them having a public trial – we’ve all seen them on TV or in the news, and we know what they entail. However, due to the nature of these trials and the fact that they can be traumatizing for everyone involved, the juvenile is not required to have one. Instead, they have what is known as an adjudication hearing instead. This involves far fewer people and, although still very serious, it is easier for the juvenile to engage with.  

Judges Without Juries 

Following on from the above point, it’s also important to note that there are no juries used in juvenile hearings. Unlike a criminal trial, where a jury would make the final determination as to the accused’s guilt or innocence, in a juvenile trial, this decision is made by the judge alone. They will determine whether the child has carried out a delinquent act or not. 

Sealed Records 

In an adult case, if the accused is found guilty, they will be given a criminal record, and this criminal record is a matter of public knowledge. Anyone can find it, and it must be disclosed when you are asked, such as it would be during a job interview, for example. In juvenile cases, the record of the hearing will be sealed instead. This means that the general public cannot access it – it can only be seen with a special court order. In some cases, this record will be entirely expunged after a certain amount of time or when the juvenile reaches 21. This is not automatic, however.  

Contact Us Today 

These are just a few of the differences between juvenile and adult law. If you have questions, call our firm for more details. Our experts are on hand to answer all questions and give advice, and our experience and knowledge of the law mean we will always be able to help.