While juvenile and adult court cases share some similarities, they also differ in notable ways. If you and your child are navigating the juvenile justice system, it is in your best interest to understand what to expect and how the process works so you can avoid surprises along the way. Here are the top three differences between juvenile and criminal court.
1. There Is No Jury
One difference between juvenile and criminal court you will notice immediately is that juvenile court cases are not a matter of public record, and there is no jury. Instead, the judge is the sole arbiter of justice. While minors are still innocent until proven guilty, attorneys must convince a judge beyond a reasonable doubt, instead of an entire jury.
2. The Goal Is Reformation, Not Punishment
While there can be serious consequences for committing a criminal offense as an adult, California’s juvenile court system emphasizes reformation and alternative sentencing in consideration of the child’s best interests. Instead of punishing offenders with prison time, a judge will typically guide minors to probationary programs designed to help rehabilitate them. For example, an adolescent offender might have to pay a fine, complete a stint in community service or spend time in a juvenile correction facility, where they will have access to mental and behavioral counseling.
3. You Can Get a Juvenile Record Sealed
Another key difference with juvenile offenses is that once the child turns 18, you can obtain a judicial order to have their record sealed. The most significant advantage of sealing a juvenile record is that doing so will give them a chance to make a fresh start as an adult. From that point on, it will be as if the offense never happened, and your child can confidently apply for jobs, get a driver’s license, rent an apartment or get accepted into school without anyone knowing about their past.
Your Family’s Experienced Juvenile Defense Attorney
Though the juvenile court system is less punitive than criminal court, committing a crime as a minor can still have long-lasting ramifications. You’ll want an experienced attorney by your side to defend you and your family and ensure a young adult does not have to bear the consequences of a brush with the juvenile justice system for the rest of their life.
If your child is facing an uncertain future, contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh for your complimentary consultation. As a former district attorney and prosecutor, Katie Walsh has handled thousands of juvenile cases and is also an expert in school disciplinary cases. She understands how California’s juvenile justice system works and that it focuses on helping your child lead a better lifestyle. She will work to assist your family and help you understand what to expect from the process of defending a case involving a minor.