How is juvenile criminal defense different from adults?
The adult criminal justice system’s primary goal is punishment, not rehabilitation. On the other hand, the juvenile justice system’s primary mission is to step in and find solutions to effect a rehabilitation of the child. Anybody under the age of 18 years is presumed to be a candidate for the juvenile justice system, unless the court (or in certain cases, the prosecution) determine that a juvenile is “unfit” for handling within the juvenile system. In such cases, the case will be transferred to a regular criminal court and will be treated identically to an adult case.
While an adult has the absolute constitutional right to a trial by jury, there are no such rights in the juvenile court. In fact, there is no right to a “trial.” Instead, if a juvenile contests the charges, the court holds an “adjudication” to determine if the charges are proven or not. The adjudication is an adversarial proceeding, follows the rules of evidence and procedure, such that it is actually (in all but name) a trial by the court, without a jury. However, unlike an adult court, at the conclusion of an adjudication if the court finds the charges to be true, the court acts as a “harsh parent” and metes out a course of rehabilitation, rather than a course of punishment. Also, there is no right to bail. Instead, the juvenile court determines whether detention or remaining at home is in the best interests of the child.
A juvenile criminal defense lawyer defends juveniles charged with criminal conduct. Some juvenile criminal defense lawyers are privately retained, while others are employed by the various jurisdictions with juvenile courts for appointment to represent indigent persons; the latter are generally called public defenders. Persons who are charged with a crime are all entitled to be represented by an attorney. The public defender is not a “choice” that a person can make just to save money. To qualify for the services of the public defender, a juvenile defendant’s parents or guardians must submit a financial evaluation and only if they meet certain financial criteria can they have the court pay for their child’s representation. For families who do not financially qualify as indigent, and who want to obtain the finest representation for their child as possible, Wegman & Levin provides experience, integrity and dedication.