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In Pennsylvania, there are key differences between juvenile and adult offenses. Although it is possible for a juvenile to be charged as an adult if the charges are serious enough, most juveniles are not charged with crimes but are, instead, found delinquent. Nevertheless, labeling someone a juvenile delinquent carries a strong negative stigma.
If your son or daughter is facing charges in the juvenile system, it is critical to obtain competent representation. Juveniles do not have the benefit of a jury at their trials. And the only person who can persuade a judge is a juvenile offense attorney with lots of experience in this field.
In many respects, the juvenile justice system is a lot like the adult system. Juveniles are arrested, arraigned on formal charges, and must face a trial and receive a sentence. It is usually when juveniles are 16 years or older or charged with a summary offense that adult criminal charges will arise.
One key difference is that the juvenile system is geared towards rehabilitation instead of incarceration. Parents don’t like to see their children locked up in juvenile detention centers. Juveniles may qualify for alternative sentencing programs, such as drug rehab or other educational courses against violence and delinquency.
Another key distinction is that juveniles are not automatically detained after an arrest. Unless they are determined to be a flight risk, danger to the community, or have no place to go, they will be released back to their families.
They must then be provided with a preliminary hearing within 72 hours after arrest. Once sufficient evidence of an offense is established, they will have to face a bench trial before a judge that is similar to an adult criminal trial but with no possibility of using a jury.
If they are adjudicated delinquent, they will often be placed on probation or in a child welfare or detention center. Violations of the probation terms defined by the court will also send them or return them to one of these facilities.
One grave mistake that parents make when their children are facing delinquency charges is to sit back and let the officials punish them. If parents are frustrated by children who are out of control, they may start to see punishment through the juvenile system as a good thing. This kind of thinking is flawed because parents need to comprehend the full effect of sending their children to a juvenile detention center.
When your child is taken into a juvenile detention center, they may not be rehabilitated. They may grow into more hardened criminals. They will be angry at being punished for what they may see as having fun or being a kid. They can grow up with a chip on their shoulders and learn to resent authority and their parents.
Punishing juveniles too harshly can dissolve any trust that may have been established. Most of the adult offenders have gone through many encounters with the justice system before they commit more serious crimes. There is no empirical evidence to support the theory that punishment can be used to rehabilitate anyone.
It may be smarter to simply move out of an area than to support the detention or punishment of your children. Many of the childhood problems occur because children have older friends who are a bad influence. The parents of these children may be criminals or drug dealers. They may be living in a neighborhood or attending a school where criminal activity is rampant.
Children are often a product of their environments and are not carrying out these acts by choice. They are susceptible to peer pressures at this age and can find it harder and harder to follow the advice of parents who treat them badly or work against them. As a parent, you should want every opportunity available for your children. Starting them off with a negative criminal stigma can close a lot of opportunities and ruin them. Hiring an experienced defense attorney is the only solution.