Understanding Juvenile and Adult Criminal Charges
Experienced Juvenile Lawyers in Pennsylvania
The juvenile criminal justice system is a relatively new concept, with the first juvenile court established in Illinois in 1899. Before juvenile courts were established, children and teens were considered small adults, and were tried and punished as such. As more understanding of child development occurred, there came a push for a better solution to juvenile offenses. Between 1880 and 1920, there was a large wave of immigration as well as a significant increase in urbanization which led to scores of indigent children wandering the streets, turning to criminal activity, often simply to have food to eat. This meant that a child arrested and convicted of stealing a loaf of bread received the same punishment as an adult—and these convicted children were also housed with adult criminals.
Learning More From Experienced Juvenile Defense Lawyers
Contact the Ciccarelli Law Offices now for advice and representation if your child is facing juvenile criminal charges in Pennsylvania, and the greater Philadelphia metro area including Lancaster County, Chester County, Berks County, Delaware County, Montgomery County and Bucks County. Contact us now by email, chat or (610) 692-8700 or (877) 529-2422.
Before long, lawmakers came to the realization that when children were institutionalized with adult criminals, they quickly learned adult criminal behaviors. In other words, rather than being rehabilitated, the children were leaving the institutions fully prepared for the life of a career criminal. Separate juvenile court systems and correctional facilities began to be developed; these early juvenile institutions emphasized teaching the children a trade or a set of skills which would allow them to make contributions to society upon their release. These early juvenile courts operated under the parens patriae philosophy which meant the state acted “as a parent.” Juvenile courts were also given intervention power whenever they felt that the intervention would be in the best interests of the child.
Finding Top Juvenile Attorneys in Today’s Juvenile Justice System
Today, while the juvenile justice system varies somewhat from state to state, the system handles criminal cases for youth under a certain age. In the state of Pennsylvania—and in most states—juveniles who are seventeen or younger will be processed through the juvenile justice system with a few exceptions. The age is sixteen in a few states, and fifteen in New York and North Carolina. States also vary as far as when a juvenile can be tried as an adult. In the state of Pennsylvania, a child of any age can be tried as an adult if the charge is murder. For other violent crimes, whether a juvenile will be tried as an adult will depend on a number of factors, such as whether the juvenile has a prior criminal history, the nature of the crime and the age of the juvenile.
The primary difference between the juvenile justice system and the adult criminal justice system is that while the adult criminal justice system focuses on punishment for a criminal offense, the juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation. Additional differences between the juvenile justice system and the adult justice system include:
- There are considerably more sentencing options for juveniles than for adults (diversion, community service, counseling, etc.).
- Juveniles do not have a right to a public trial by jury, rather their case is heard by a judge in an adjudication hearing, who then rules on whether the juvenile committed a delinquent act. An adult has the right to have the case hear by a jury of his or her peers.
- Rather than a “crime,” juveniles are prosecuted for a “delinquent act,” unless he or she committed a serious offense.
- The rules in a juvenile court tend to be much more relaxed and informal as far as courtroom procedure than the rules in adult court.
- While an adult criminal record is open to the public—and all adult court proceedings are open to the public—there are limitations placed on public access to juvenile criminal records. This is due to the belief that juvenile offenders can be rehabilitated, as well as to avoid stigmatization of a young offender. Juvenile court proceedings are often confidential to protect the privacy of the juvenile.
- An adult trial is based largely on legal facts, while the juvenile justice system takes a detailed assessment of the juvenile’s history to better meet his or her specific needs. The hearing a juvenile will face incorporates legal factors as well as the social history of the juvenile.
- An adult defendant has the right to apply for bond or bail, while a juvenile may be placed in preventative detention if it is believed that detention is in the best interests of the youth or the community.
- In adult court, the defendant is either found guilty or innocent, and may be sentenced to jail, prison, probation and may be assessed fines. The juvenile offender is not judged “guilty,” rather is judged “delinquent.” Sentencing could include a wide range of residential and community-based options, usually determined by the offender’s history, age, and the severity of the crime. Under certain circumstances, a juvenile whose case is heard in juvenile court could be sent to a facility or program until rehabilitation is complete or the juvenile reaches the age of majority.
- “Parole” for a juvenile offender whose case is heard in juvenile court combines surveillance with activities, with a goal of reintegrating the juvenile into the community. For an adult, parole is based on surveillance and monitoring of any illicit behavior.
- Both juveniles and adults have the right to an attorney. When the court summons a juvenile to appear in court, the juvenile must be informed of his or her right to an attorney. If the court considers the child to be indigent, an attorney will be appointed to represent the child and protect his or her rights. Indigent adults are also entitled to have an attorney appointed to represent them in court.
- Both juveniles and adults have the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.
- Both juveniles and adults have the right to be notified of the charges against them.
- Both juveniles and adults have the right to a phone call; typically, a juvenile would call his or her parent or guardian who would then contact an attorney. An adult under arrest might call an attorney or call a spouse, family member or friend and ask that person to call an attorney for them.
- Both juveniles and adults have the right to avoid self-incrimination.
- Both juveniles and adults have the right to remain silent, and law enforcement must read a juvenile his or her Miranda rights prior to an interrogation, otherwise any information acquired is inadmissible.
- For both juveniles and adults, a “guilty” or “delinquent” finding requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Minors are found to have committed a “juvenile act,” while adults are found guilty of a “crime.”
- Most of us are under the mistaken belief that the police cannot question a juvenile without his or her parents present. This is not true, although a juvenile can refuse to answer any questions until his or her parent or guardian arrives.
What Happens After a Juvenile is Arrested?
Once a juvenile is arrested, a preliminary hearing (42 Pa.C.S.§6332) must be held within 72 hours to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to continue to hold the juvenile. If there is sufficient evidence to continue to hold the juvenile, then the case will move to the next step, which is a formal adjudication hearing, which must usually be held within 10 days.
Following an adjudication hearing for a juvenile, the judge will then determine the disposition of the case (42 Pa.C.S. §§ 6352), taking the juvenile’s best interests into consideration, and following guidelines for sentencing which are focused on rehabilitation. Unless the offense committed by the juvenile is very serious or the juvenile is considered a threat to the community, a flight risk or has no parent or guardian to take custody of them, the juvenile will not be detained.
Rights a Juvenile Has While Being Held in Detention
Juveniles are entitled to specific rights (42 Pa.C.S. §6338) while in detention. If a juvenile is held in detention while waiting for the preliminary hearing or the formal adjudication hearing, he or she is entitled to receive a free public education. If there are special medical needs or learning disabilities related to the juvenile, the court must make all necessary accommodations. Juveniles held in detention must also receive any necessary or appropriate medical care; at the age of 14, a juvenile can consent to mental health treatment on his or her own, although the parents of the juvenile maintain the right to consent to medical treatment until the juvenile reaches the age of 18. While in detention, the juvenile has the right to reside in a facility which is clean and safe. There are specific standards in place in all Pennsylvania juvenile detention centers which dictate allowed discipline methods, the care of the juveniles and the juvenile’s right to communicate with family members.
Key Issues in Juvenile Defense
Juvenile Proceedings in Pennsylvania
Deferred Adjudication and the Consent Decree for Chester County Juveniles
Potential Consequences for a Juvenile Conviction in West Chester
How will Juvenile Charges Impact My College Application?
Do a need a Juvenile Attorney?
What is the Juvenile Court Process?
Will Your Child Be Prosecuted like an Adult?
What Does a Juvenile Probation Officer Do?
What’s the Difference Between a Juvenile and an Adult Prosecution?
Why a Pennsylvania Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney is Absolutely Necessary
As you can see, the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system is quite different from the adult justice system and can seem very complex. In order to ensure your child’s rights and future are fully protected, as well as to fully understand the Pennsylvania juvenile justice process, it is extremely important to speak to an experienced Pennsylvania juvenile criminal defense attorney. While you, like most parents, certainly want your child to “pay” for his or her offense in order to learn from the mistake, you do not want the penalties to far outweigh the crime, or to completely derail your child’s future. A knowledgeable Pennsylvania juvenile criminal defense attorney will not only protect your child’s rights but will also help set your child up for a more successful adult life.
Seeking Top Rated Pennsylvania Juvenile Lawyers Before Its Too Late
If your child has been arrested and charged with a crime, the highly experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Offices can help. We will fight aggressively for your child’s rights and their freedom. We will protect them during this difficult time and represent them aggressively throughout the criminal process. Contact the Ciccarelli Law Offices today by email or by phone at (610) 692-8700 or (877) 529-2422 immediately to begin building a solid defense against these serious charges. We represent juvenile clients in Chester County, Berks County, Bucks County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia.