In the state of Pennsylvania, children are held to different standards of behavior than adults. While kids are expected to obey the law, the criminal justice system also recognizes that their brains may not be fully developed yet and that they may not have the impulse control or self control that an adult would. The special needs of children are also recognized by the criminal justice system and, typically, more emphasis is placed on rehabilitating child offenders rather than just punishing them for their crimes.
Because children are treated differently in the criminal justice system, their cases are often heard in juvenile court. Juvenile matters heard in juvenile court can still result in a term of incarceration for kids who break the law, but usually the term of incarceration can last only up until the child is 18-years of age and the incarceration will not be served in a prison but instead in special juvenile facilities.
Still, the consequences of a juvenile crime are serious and kids and teens accused of criminal behavior may have a criminal record that follows them for life and never completely goes away.
Between fines, a criminal record and possible incarceration, the consequences of conviction for a juvenile offense can be grave. As such, if you are a minor in trouble, of if your child or other loved one has been accused of a crime, it is advisable to contact a criminal defense firm with experience in juvenile matters. The criminal defense law firm of Lawrence R. Dworkin has handled many juvenile cases and I can put our legal knowledge to work for you.
When a juvenile commits a crime, he may be adjudicated delinquent in the state of Pennsylvania. This means that the case can be heard by a juvenile court that will make a determination on the guilt of the child, and, if so, about what happens to the minor.
The court will consider the guilt or innocence of the minor and, if the minor is found guilty, will decide on an appropriate sentence. The sentence may include jail time, but is more likely to include alternative punishments including probation, community service or counseling unless the crime was a serious one. Typically, many of the crimes handled in juvenile court relate to drugs, shoplifting and vandalism, although more serious crimes including robbery or murder may also be committed by children.
The biggest concern in many juvenile cases when a serious crime is committed is whether the teen or minor who committed the crime will be charged as an adult. When a serious crime is committed by someone underage, the prosecutor or district attorney may petition to have the case removed to adult court at his/her discretion. If this occurs, it will become the job of the juvenile’s lawyer to convince the court that the matter should remain in family or juvenile court. Getting a lawyer’s help to convince the court to keep the case in juvenile court is always a smart move since the potential penalties usually will not be as grave as those in adult court and since juvenile court judges are generally more familiar with the special issues and concerns that apply to children defendants.
Whether your child is tried in juvenile court or adult court, however, it is important to have the best legal representation possible in all juvenile matters to protect your child’s future and to ensure that a youthful mistake doesn’t derail a promising life. To learn more about how we can help in juvenile matters, contact the experienced criminal defense law firm of Lawrence R. Dworkin today using our online form or via phone at 610-566-0610.