Criminal defendants under the age of 18 are sent to juvenile court. In juvenile court, you will not be tried in front of a jury. Instead, a judge will look at the evidence presented by a prosecutor and reach a decision on whether you have committed the crime.
Juvenile courts offer youth offenders many sentencing options, also known as “disposition orders.” These sentencing options fall under two major categories and depend on the severity of the offense and the minor’s criminal history:
Incarceration may sound like a jail or prison sentence, but often times it is not. There are many different ways a juvenile court judge can order confinement for a juvenile offender.
Regardless of your circumstances, a knowledgeable juvenile attorney is necessary to help guide you through this difficult process. Our attorneys can help you develop an aggressive defense to keep you or a loved one out of jail.
Incarceration Options for Juvenile Delinquents
Once a juvenile court judge determines that the minor violated a criminal law, he or she may order incarceration as a penalty. Here are some of the different levels of incarceration you may face as a juvenile delinquent:
- Home confinement or house arrest: The judge orders the minor to remain at home with certain exceptions for places such as school and counseling visits;
- Placement with someone other than a parent or guardian: The judge orders that you live with a relative, or in a group or a foster home;
- Juvenile hall: You are ordered to stay in a juvenile detention center for a short term;
- Probation (after juvenile hall): You may be ordered to stay in a juvenile detention facility for a few months and then be put on probation;
- Secured juvenile facilities: For more serious crimes, you may be sentenced to stay in a secured juvenile facility for a longer period of time;
- Adult jail: In a very serious case, you may be ordered to spend time in an adult county jail or state prison;
- Blended Sentence: In some jurisdictions, the juvenile court can order that you spend time in a juvenile facility until you are 18, then transfer to an adult jail.
Non-Incarceration Punishments for Juvenile Offenders
A juvenile court judge also has the discretion to offer rehabilitation options for you, depending on the crime. Some disposition orders that do not include confinement are:
- Verbal Warning: The judge simply reprimands you verbally;
- Fine: You are ordered to pay a fine to the government or to the victim, if any;
- Community Service: As your punishment, the court may ask that you complete a certain number of hours in service to your community;
- Electronic Monitoring: You are ordered to wear a wrist or ankle bracelet at all times to verify where you are for a certain period of time;
- Probation: You may be assigned certain conditions that you have to meet, including attending counseling, meeting curfews, avoiding certain individuals (such as gang members) and completing anger management classes. In this case you will be assigned a probation officer who reports back to the court. If you have violated the terms of your probation, you can receive a harsher disposition order such as incarceration.
Can Juveniles Face Adult Criminal Penalties?
The short answer is yes. Juveniles can be tried in adult court for some of the more serious offenses if they are at least 14 years of age. These crimes include:
- First Degree Murder;
- Forcible sex offenses in concert with another person;
- Forcible lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 years of age;
- Forcible penetration by a foreign object; and
- Sodomy or oral copulation by force, violence or menace.
Call the Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys Hamilton
We understand that you or your loved one’s juvenile case can cause a great deal of stress in your family. Many different factors surrounding your case will determine the disposition order set by the court. With over 30 years of experience successfully defending juveniles accused of crimes, the attorneys at Hamilton can help you reach the most desirable outcome.