Juvenile crimes are crimes committed by an individual who is under the age of 18. While the juvenile justice system often draws criticism from those who think the penalties for children who commit crimes are not harsh enough, many of the consequences of a conviction can last well into adulthood and cause difficulty in the future.
What Are Juvenile Crimes?
The brains of juveniles are less developed than those of adults, impacting their responses to impulse control and sound decision making. Because courts realize this, they generally take the age of the suspect into consideration when determining the penalties for crimes. However, depending on the severity of the crime that was committed, the juvenile can be tried in adult court and even sentenced to adult consequences, including incarceration.
Examples of Juvenile Crimes
Juveniles are capable of committing crimes that are every bit as serious as those committed by adults, including crimes such as murder or arson. However, most of the crimes that are committed by juveniles are less serious in nature, including:
- Vandalism: The deliberate destruction of someone else’s property as a result of tagging, keying cars, slashing tires, breaking windows, destroying mailboxes, or toilet papering or egging the yards and homes of others.
- Shoplifting: This offense among juveniles generally rises to the level of petty larceny, which is the theft of products less than $500 in value. Grand larceny can also be a juvenile crime and involves stealing a vehicle.
- Underage drinking and drug possession: This often involves a lower driving limit of impairment than that which would constitute a violation of the law when committed by an adult. In cases involving underage drinking or drug possession, substance abuse counseling will often be a part of any diversion program or parole.
- Simple assault: This occurs when a juvenile is fighting with others using only fists. The use of a weapon in a physical altercation with someone else will generally result in a higher level of penalties, including consideration of adult charges.
- Sexual offenses: Including sexual assault, sexual abuse by someone in a position of trust, the use of the internet to commit a sex crime, sexual exploitation of other children, and other sex-related crimes committed by juveniles.
- Domestic violence: Domestic violence can occur among juveniles either in romantic relationships or committed against members of the juvenile’s family in the home.
- Status offenses: This refers to a series of crimes that are only crimes by virtue of the offender’s age, such as truancy, curfew violations, or running away.
Penalties for Juvenile Crimes
The focus of penalties for juvenile crimes is often directed more towards rehabilitating a youth and providing resources for them than it is with assigning a punishment for the crime. That said, some penalties for juvenile crimes include:
- Home confinement: Requires the offender to wear an electronic monitoring device that will track their movements and alert authorities if they venture outside of acceptable areas such as school, work, or the locations of other obligations.
- Juvenile detention facilities: Where youth can carry out a period of incarceration alongside other offenders.
- Juvenile diversion programs: Completed before the trial that often include a combination of community service, counseling, and other rehabilitative activities aimed at assisting the juvenile to develop stronger resources and make better decisions.
- Community service: Often assigned when a juvenile has entered a diversion program or as part of their probation.
- Foster or group home placement: If it is believed that the juvenile’s home life contributed to their behavior.
- Fines to cover property damage and other impacts: These are paid to other people that were affected as a result of the crime.
Impacts of Conviction
In addition to the legal consequences juveniles face upon conviction of a crime, they also face a number of potential impacts from the conviction, if their parents do not take the proper steps to mitigate the damage. Some of these impacts include:
- College acceptances: Over 70 percent of the universities and colleges in the U.S. inquire about the criminal histories of their applicants upon admission consideration.
- Employment: Many jobs will check the criminal histories of applicants during hiring decisions.
- Housing options: Like schools and employers, apartment managers also frequently check the criminal backgrounds of applicants before deciding to allow the individual to rent.
- Driving privileges: If a juvenile is convicted of a driving offense, such as DUI, they can lose their license for a period of time, impacting their ability to work or attend school.
- Financial strain: Most juvenile crimes carry financial penalties, including restitution for harm and the costs of the court. Often these expenses are shouldered by funds that were being saved by the juvenile’s parents in order to buy them a car or help pay for college.
- Firearm restrictions: Conviction of a violent crime, such as murder, assault, or domestic violence can result in them being legally barred from purchasing, possessing, or using a firearm.
- Immigration status: Juveniles who have entered the country illegally can not only result in removal proceedings, but can also prohibit the juvenile from having the ability to obtain citizenship.
- Adult sentencing: Contrary to popular belief, a juvenile record doesn’t just “disappear” when an individual turns 18. Instead, it can be used to determine sentencing in future crimes, even resulting in harsher sentences for future convictions, including longer periods of incarceration and increased fines.
Has Your Child Been Charged with a Crime?
If your child has been charged with a juvenile crime, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at CBJ Law can provide guidance as to the juvenile criminal legal process as well as services designed to protect your child’s reputation and future. Contact us for a consultation.