Just like adults, young people may become criminal offenders too. Some of these offenses are essentially the same as those adults commit, while others are associated with an offender’s age or additional factors.
Families facing a juvenile crime conviction should partner with a juvenile criminal defense lawyer to learn more about their rights and determine the next steps necessary to navigate the juvenile justice system successfully.
What Constitutes a Juvenile Crime?
Put simply, juvenile crimes, offenses, or delinquencies refer to acts committed by anyone under the age of 18. However, depending on the severity of the offense, juveniles can be tried as adults in court.
Common juvenile offenses often have less severe consequences, but the experience can still be highly troubling for both parent and child. The statistics on youth offenders are on the rise, so federal and state governments are aiming to find ways to remedy bad behavior and rehabilitate juveniles in order to reduce incarceration rates.
Punishments for Juvenile Offenses
In the United States, rehabilitation is a major priority, and most punishments for minor juvenile offenses aim to keep kids out of the prison system. The court can sentence your child in several different ways:
- Home Confinement – Also called house arrest, home confinement requires offenders to wear a tracking device at all times to ensure they remain at home, with exceptions for school, work, and other essential activities.
- Juvenile Detention Facilities – This is a facility away from home, where young offenders complete their sentences along with several group counseling sessions, rehabilitation programs, and even school.
- Juvenile Diversion Programs – Diversion programs are pre-trial programs that aim to remedy bad behavior before placing a juvenile offender in the system. Sometimes, charges are dropped upon completion of a juvenile diversion program.
- Community Service – Required community service hours can vary by case but are typically a condition of a juvenile criminal’s probationary terms.
- Foster or Group Homes – If an offender’s bad behavior is exacerbated by their current home situation or they are unsafe at home, the court may choose to place them in a foster home or group home for rehabilitation.
- Adult Prison – In cases where criminal offenses are serious and extensive, the courts can choose to charge juveniles in adult court. After sentencing, the offender will potentially be placed in a county jail or state prison facility for adults.
Programs like the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) are offered in several states to reduce overcrowding in detention centers and deter young people from committing crimes.
7 of the Most Common Juvenile Offenses Explained
Unfortunately, in adolescent years the brain isn’t fully developed, and children or teens are often prone to making impulsive decisions. Sometimes, delinquent actions can land your child in a lot of trouble with the law.
It’s essential to be aware of your child’s behavior before it’s too late. Below, we look at some of the most common juvenile offenses committed in the United States:
Vandalism entails the intent to destroy another person or business’s property. The most typical kinds of destruction seen in juvenile cases are:
- Graffiti or tagging
- Keying cars
- Slashing tires
- Breaking windows
- Hitting mailboxes
- Vandalizing homes and yards (i.e., toilet paper, eggs, etc.)
For the most part, the courts aim to rehabilitate low-risk juvenile offenders, not punish them. Those charged with vandalism will likely be required to pay fines or restitution and complete probation, community service, or a diversion program.
Juvenile offenders typically commit petty larceny when shoplifting or stealing, which means the theft of objects amounts to $500 or less. However, more serious theft crimes, such as grand larceny involving a vehicle, may be sent to adult court or have much steeper consequences than a petty offense.
3. Underage Drinking and Drug Possession
Another crime youth offenders are commonly found committing involves alcohol, drugs, and drug paraphernalia. Underage possession and consumption of these substances is illegal and often results in substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation, fines, or further punishment.
In some states, underage drug and alcohol possession or consumption is only considered a status offense, meaning it has minor consequences compared to some more serious youth offenses. Other times, underage drinking that leads to a DUI can change a person’s life, both legally and emotionally.
4. Simple Assault
Young people often fight, and sometimes they fight with their fists. In these instances, offenders can be charged with simple assault. Each state defines “simple assault” differently, but broadly speaking, it refers to any action meant to threaten or cause harm to another human being. More severe assaults may be considered aggravated assaults and be tried in adult court. Read our informative guide to Minnesota’s assault charges and their consequences for an in-depth explanation.
5. Sexual Offenses
Sexual offenses are slightly less standard amongst this population, but some teens may still commit sexual crimes. Unfortunately, aside from sexual abuse and assault, other child sex crimes are often associated with youth offenders since they lack the more advanced judgment of adults.
Students might receive or distribute photographs of a sexual nature with other minors, meaning they’ve distributed child pornography. In addition, youth relationships can toe the line regarding the age of consent laws, which vary by state. The older partner can potentially be charged with statutory rape, depending on state legislation.
6. Domestic Violence
Juvenile domestic violence cases can include issues between a youth offender and their significant other, family members, or other household members. After a domestic violence charge, the juvenile justice may send the offender to an adult prison or recommend removal from their home if the living conditions continue to pose a risk to the minor.
7. Status Offenses
In some instances, an offense is based on an individual’s status as a juvenile itself. These instances are called status offenses. Some examples of common status offenses include:
- Curfew violations
- Running away
- Disorderly conduct
In most states, juvenile status offenses are misdemeanors and are associated with less severe consequences. However, young status offenders are often required to complete community service or counseling for substance abuse or mental health issues.
Dealing With Juvenile Crimes and Their Consequences
Being charged with a juvenile crime can be a frightening and overwhelming experience, both for the young offender and for their family. If you’re facing a juvenile crime charge and need to navigate the juvenile justice system, you’re also going to need support.
The experienced attorneys at CJB Law are here to help, offering explanations of the charges and your rights and giving you reliable legal counsel during these challenging circumstances. Contact CJB Law today to set up a consultation to discuss your juvenile crime case.