Juvenile courts differ from adult courts in that they exist to protect and rehabilitate children under the age of 18, or younger than 17 in certain criminal matters. Whether the individual will be tried in juvenile court depends on the type of crime committed. Cases heard in juvenile court include those regarding status offenses, or offenses considered crimes because the person is a minor, like truancy or running away from home; delinquency, or children who commit acts considered to be criminal for adults; neglect and abuse cases; adoption or the relinquish of parental rights; and cases where the parent or guardian of the child refuses or is unable to provide necessary medical care for the child.
Juvenile offenders can be tried under adult criminal law, or general law. If the individual is between the ages of 12 to 17 and the act committed would be considered a felony if committed by an adult, or if the individual is a repeat offender, he or she may be certified as an adult and tried in the adult system. If the individual committed a serious offense such as sale of drugs, robbery, assault, rape or murder, he or she can be transferred to and tried in the adult system regardless of their age.
While the juvenile system is relatively flexible, missteps for a youth can have long lasting consequences. When a juvenile is in trouble with the law, it's important to seek legal counsel to examine options and solutions. The legal system is becoming far less generous with the destruction of juvenile records when the person reaches age 18, and a marred record can deny the individual access to jobs, military service and other opportunities.
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