Being charged with a crime is a frightening experience, but for many parents, their worst nightmare is seeing their child face criminal charges. The juvenile court system operates differently from the adult court system, and it can sometimes be difficult to navigate. This difficulty is made even worse by the stress of parents or caretakers who are worried about their child losing out on the prospect of a good future, or even serving time behind bars in a juvenile detention facility.
At Young Marr & Associates, our Allentown, PA juvenile defense attorneys have significant experience working in the juvenile courts and bringing our young clients’ cases to a satisfying conclusion. If you or your child is searching for a criminal defense attorney, look no further than our team of seasoned lawyers. We will guide you through every step of the process and fight for your rights. Call us today at (215) 372-8667 to discuss your case.
The Difference Between Juvenile and Adult Criminal Proceedings in Allentown
In Pennsylvania, juveniles facing accusations of criminal misconduct are typically dealt with in a different court system than adults. Much of the terminology in the juvenile justice system is different from that used in the adult court system. Rather than being charged with a crime, juveniles have a delinquency petition filed against them. Instead of being found guilty, if the charges are proven the child is said to be adjudicated delinquent. There are no jury trials in juvenile court – all cases are decided by a judge.
A juvenile who has been adjudicated delinquent will be labeled a “delinquent child” and will face a disposition hearing where a penalty of some sort will be handed down. The major difference between being tried and convicted as an adult and adjudicated delinquent as a minor is that in the case of the minor, they will not have a criminal conviction on their record.
Their record will, however, reflect that they have been adjudicated delinquent, although this is typically able to be expunged. Expungement is permitted 6 months after a juvenile successfully completes a pre-trial intervention program, or if they are adjudicated delinquent, five years after they have been discharged from court supervision at the end of their probation period. Sometimes, at a prosecutor’s discretion, the court can grant an expungement earlier than the statutory time frames once the minor has turned eighteen. Expungement is not automatic and must be requested by the individual once they are eligible.
When a Juvenile Can be Charged as an Adult
It is very rare that a juvenile can be charged as an adult in Pennsylvania because the point of the juvenile justice system is to be less punitive and more focused on rehabilitation. However, for certain particularly serious crimes, a juvenile can be charged as an adult and their case will be handled through the adult court system. In the case of murder, a juvenile is always tried as an adult. A minor fifteen years of age or older can be tried as an adult if a deadly weapon is used during the commission of the crime for charges including the following:
- Rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
- Aggravated assault
- Voluntary manslaughter
- An attempt, conspiracy to commit, or solicitation of murder
Furthermore, if a juvenile was previously adjudicated delinquent of one of the above crimes, they can be tried as an adult for other crimes as well.
Common Types of Juvenile Crimes in Allentown, PA
A minor can be adjudicated delinquent for essentially any offense that an adult could be convicted of in the regular court system. However, the following are some of the more common charges our juvenile clients face:
- Drug possession
- Underage drinking
- Drunk driving
- Reckless driving
- Sex Crimes (including child pornography for texting naked pictures of themselves or receiving naked pictures from another juvenile)
Penalties for Juvenile Crimes in Pennsylvania
The juvenile court system is supposed to work toward the rehabilitation of juveniles; it is not supposed to be punitive. However, in practice many of the consequences minors face if they have been adjudicated delinquent can be harsh and may seem punitive.
Pre-Adjudication Diversion Program
The best-case scenario is for the court to allow the minor to be placed into a pre-trial intervention program in lieu of a delinquency adjudication. If the minor successfully completes the program’s requirements, the case will be dismissed, and no record will exist. An experienced Allentown PA, juvenile defense lawyer like those at Young Marr & Associates will know how to advocate to get your child placed into such a program.
Time in a Juvenile Detention Center
If adjudicated delinquent, a minor faces the prospect of being sentenced to spend time in a juvenile detention facility. While these facilities are supposed to be less rigid than prison and are meant to encourage minors to get treatment for any issues causing their criminal conduct, it is still often a harrowing and life-altering experience for a child to be taken away from their home and placed behind bars.
Court Costs, Fines, and Restitution
If a child or their guardian fails to pay required court costs, fines or restitution, when they turn eighteen a judgment can be filed against them. This can affect their credit rating and other financial matters.
A delinquent juvenile placed on probation will be required to undergo certain requirements like counseling, educational courses, and community service. If they fail to complete these requirements or report to their probation officer on time, they may end up back in the juvenile court facing further penalties for probation violations.
Effects on the Minor’s Future
A minor who has been adjudicated delinquent could face long-term consequences such as being expelled from high school, being denied enrollment in college, being denied access to financial aid, not being allowed to enroll in the military, and having difficulty finding a job.
Call Our Allentown, PA Juvenile Defense Lawyers Today
Juvenile criminal adjudications, while typically less serious than adult charges, still bring with them the potential of devastating, life-altering consequences for you or your child. At Young Marr & Associates, we have decades of experiencing fighting to ensure our juvenile clients do not have their entire futures ripped away from them for a childish mistake. We know how to lobby the courts for the best possible outcome, including pre-trial intervention programs and probation rather than detention. Call us today at (215) 372-8667 for a free consultation.