History, Trying Juveniles As Adults, Modern Juvenile Law, Should The Juvenile Justice System Be Abolished?
An area of the law that deals with the actions and well-being of persons who are not yet adults.
In the law a juvenile is defined as a person who is not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In most states and on the federal level, this age threshold is set at 18 years. In Wyoming a juvenile is a person under the age of 19. In some states a juvenile is a person under the age of 17, and in Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina, a juvenile is a person under the age of 16. These age definitions are significant because they determine whether a young person accused of criminal conduct will be charged with a crime in adult court or will be required to appear in juvenile court.
Juvenile courts generally have authority over three categories of children: juveniles accused of criminal conduct; juveniles neglected or abused by their parents or in need of assistance from the state; and juveniles accused of a status offense. This last category refers to conduct that is prohibited only to children, such as absence from school (truancy), flight from home, disobedience of reasonable parental controls, and purchase of alcohol, tobacco, or PORNOGRAPHY.
Originally the term juvenile delinquent referred to any child found to be within the jurisdiction of a juvenile court. It included children accused of status offenses and children in need of state assistance. The term delinquent was not intended to be derogatory: its literal meaning suggested a failure of parents and society to raise the child, not a failure of the child.
The modern trend is to separate and label juveniles based on the reason for their juvenile court appearance and the facts of their case. Many states have created three categories for juveniles: delinquents, abused or neglected children, and children in need of services. Delinquents are juveniles who have committed acts that would result in criminal prosecution if committed by an adult. Abused or neglected children are those who are suffering from physical or emotional abuse or who have committed status offenses or petty criminal offenses. Children in need of services are ones who are not abused or neglected but are needy in some other way. These children are usually from impoverished homes and require improved nutrition and basic health care.
Generally, the procedures for dealing with abused, neglected, and needy children are less formal than the procedures for dealing with alleged delinquents. The subsequent treatment of nondelinquent juveniles by the courts is also markedly different from the treatment of delinquents. Separation of noncriminal cases from criminal cases removes some of the stigma attached to appearance in juvenile court.
The mission of juvenile courts differs from that of adult courts. Juvenile courts do not have the authority to order punishment. Instead, they respond to juvenile misconduct and misfortune by ordering rehabilitative measures or assistance from government agencies. The juvenile court response to misconduct generally is more lenient than the adult court response.
Juvenile court proceedings are conducted in private, whereas adult proceedings are public. Also, whereas adult criminal courts focus on the offense committed and appropriate punishment, juvenile courts focus on the child and seek to meet the child's needs through rehabilitation, supervision, and treatment. Adult courts may deprive adults of their liberty only for the violation of criminal laws. Juvenile courts, by contrast, are empowered to control and confine juveniles based on a broad range of behavior and circumstances.
Child Abuse; Child Care; Child Labor Laws; Children's Rights; Family Law; Gault, In re; Infants; Parent and Child; Right to Counsel.
- Juvenile Law and Justice - Further Readings
- Juvenile Courts
- Juvenile Law - History
- Juvenile Law - Trying Juveniles As Adults
- Juvenile Law - Modern Juvenile Law
- Juvenile Law - Should The Juvenile Justice System Be Abolished?
- Juvenile Law - Further Readings
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