Crimes committed by juveniles can potentially carry the same consequences as the same crime committed by an adult. The major difference is that original court of jurisdiction is the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court rather than the General District Court. The focus of the proceedings is on reforming the child rather than simply punishing the child.
The judge has greater discretion to place the child in a program to attempt reform in lieu of incarceration or fines. While parents are not typically held liable for the actions of their child, they could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor if there is evidence that the child committed the crime at the behest or with the full knowledge of the parents.
Juveniles who are charged with crimes that include incarceration are typically kept in separate facilities from the adult counterparts. This is to ensure that the child may receive counseling and education and to protect them from potential abuse by adult inmates.
In many circumstances the court may opt for house arrest. In this case, the child is confined to his own home and permitted only to leave under specific circumstances.
In particularly serious crimes the state may ask the court to treat the minor child as an adult. If that is granted, the child will not have reform as readily available as an option for sentencing. Also in sentencing the child may be sent to adult incarceration facilities and be given the exact same punishment as an adult would receive.
A child who has committed a violation of the criminal laws in Hampton or other communities in Virginia and is under 18 years of age will likely have the case handled in the juvenile justice system. While it is true that cases involving juveniles are treated differently than are adult criminal cases, the consequences of the charges could become part of the child's criminal record when he or she is an adult.
Representation of juveniles in the juvenile and domestic relations district courts requires the talents of an attorney who knows the criminal laws and the special laws and rules for juveniles. The criminal defense team at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C. is composed of attorneys capable of providing superior representation and defense to juveniles because of their experience and familiarity with the laws and procedural rules in the juvenile justice system.
Special Treatment Afforded Juveniles
The juvenile justice system is unique because of its components are directed toward juveniles. Their cases are heard in a juvenile and domestic relations district court in each county and city within the commonwealth, including Hampton, Newport News and Norfolk.
Instead of being held in jails or adult prisons, there are juvenile detention facilities to keep children accused of committing crimes separate from adult offenders. Even the language used in the adult and juvenile systems is different. The following are some terms used in the adult courts along with their juvenile system counterparts:
- Adult crimes are offenses when committed by a juvenile
- Adults are arrested while juveniles are taken into custody
- Adults go to jail while juveniles are held in detention
- Adults go to trial on criminal charges, but juveniles have an adjudicatory hearing
- Adults convicted of a criminal charge are guilty, but juveniles are found to be delinquent
- Adult cases end with the sentencing while a juvenile case ends with the disposition.
Juveniles found to be delinquent for committing acts that would be felonies if committed by adults could have it remain on their criminal records as adults. Misdemeanor convictions, however, are expunged from a juvenile's record upon reaching 19 years of age or five years after the case was heard, whichever is later. Juvenile traffic offenses remain on a driving record until person reaches 29 years of age.
Unlike in the adult courts, privacy is important in juvenile court proceedings. The public is excluded and court records are sealed and not available as public records.
Juveniles have most of the same constitutional rights as to adults charged with committing a crime, including the right to be represented by counsel. They do not, however, have the right to a trial by jury. All proceedings in juvenile cases are heard and decided by a judge.
Common Juvenile Offenses
Any crime contained in the Virginia Criminal Code can be the subject of a proceeding in the juvenile and domestic relations district courts. Common offenses committed by juveniles include the following:
- Marijuana possession
- Vandalism and destruction of property
- Assault and battery
- Shoplifting and other theft charges
- Possession of alcohol
- Underage drinking
Common Juvenile Offenses (cont.)
When a child commits a criminal act, the petition filed with the court alleges a delinquent act. Some types of conduct, such as not attending school or running away from home, are not criminal in nature. They can, however, be the basis for a petition alleging the individual is a child in need of supervision.
Consequences of Committing a Felony or Misdemeanor as a Juvenile
Juveniles who are found to be delinquent are subject to several options available to a judge at disposition. Among the consequences of a delinquent finding are the following:
- Supervision for a period of time by a probation officer.
- Deferred disposition in which the child must comply with conditions ordered by the court with the result being dismissal of the case once the conditions are satisfied.
- Community service in lieu of or as part of other forms of disposition.
- Ordering boot camp, counseling or other programs as the court believes to be appropriate.
- Placement in a secure facility under the control of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. Placement is limited to individuals whose delinquent finding is based upon a felony or if there have been prior delinquency findings.
- Transfer custody of the child to a child welfare agency or to a relative.
Courts also have the power to suspend a person's driver's license for misdemeanors, including marijuana possession and possession of alcohol.
Juveniles Can Be Tried as Adults
A juvenile who is at least 14 years of age who is accused of committing a felony could have the case transferred to the circuit court. The procedures for transferring the case differ depending upon the felony charged.
If the person is charged with murder or aggravated malicious wounding, a hearing is held in the juvenile and domestic relations district court where the judge must determine if there is probable cause to believe the child committed the crime. If there is, then the case is transferred to the circuit court. Once probable cause is established the judge does not have discretion to keep the case in the juvenile justice system.
Prosecutors may petition asking that a case be transferred to the circuit court when the allegations are the child committed a malicious wounding, rape or other serious felony. If a judge determines there is probable cause to believe the child committed the crime, the case is transferred to the adult criminal court. Again, the judge hearing the case does not have discretion to keep it in the juvenile court.
When a child who is at least 14 years of age is alleged to have committed a felony other than a serious one, the judge hearing the case has the discretion, upon a request by prosecutors to transfer it to the adult courts and after finding probable cause exists to believe the child committed the crime, to keep the case in the juvenile court if there is reason to believe it is the proper place for the case to be handled.
Hampton Juvenile Crimes Attorneys
The Hampton Roads criminal attorneys at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C. have more than 70 years of combined legal experience, including representing clients in the juvenile and domestic relations district courts in Newport News, Hampton and Norfolk. The consequences of juvenile proceedings should not be taken lightly. Call them today at (757) 896-0868 to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation. free and confidential initial consultation by calling them today at (757) 896-0868.