Basics of Juvenile Law

Juvenile law is a system which allows law enforcement and authority to provide discipline or assistance to children or individuals under the legal adult age. There are many different reasons that juvenile law would need to step in and assist families or provide justice for minors. Below you will find an overview of juvenile law and information about the processes and systems used within juvenile law.

Who Do the Juvenile Courts Have Authority Over?

Generally, juvenile courts have authority over minors or children who are not yet considered adults. The age of adulthood is different depending upon where the child lives. For instance, in some states, a ‘juvenile' is considered to be someone under the age of 16, while in other states a juvenile is considered to be someone under the age of 18. When an incident occurs and juvenile law steps in, the age will be determined by the laws in the state the incident occurs in.

Someone who is considered a juvenile and commits a crime may be required to appear before the juvenile court and receive consequences and behavioral help. Similarly, if a juvenile requires assistance from the courts, such as in the case of neglectful parents or abusive situations, the juvenile courts can step in and assist the child.

What Kind of Crimes or Circumstances do the Juvenile Courts Handle?

Typically, the juvenile courts handle three types of situations. First, if a juvenile commits a crime, whether it is violent or non-violent, he or she will be tried by the juvenile courts. Secondly, should a juvenile be abused, neglected or in a situation where he or she is in danger at home, the juvenile courts will step in and assist the child. This might include removing the child from the home, placing him or her in a safe residence and monitoring the situation.

The third situation in which a juvenile may need to appear before the juvenile court includes a ‘status' offense. A status offense is something only a child can commit, such as truancy, constant disobedience or uncontrollable behavior, running away or similar crimes. In cases such as these, the juvenile courts will decide the best course of action and will assist the parents in ensuring that action takes place with consistency.

What is the Difference between Juvenile Law and Adult Law?

Generally, juvenile law focuses on rehabilitation. They assess the problem, decide on actions that would best help the child and work to change the behavior. While the child may receive consequences for his or her actions, the main focus is on changing the child's behavior and teaching them the basics of law and authority so they can survive in a social situation.

Juvenile law is in place to help children and minors learn to exist in a judicial society – so they can function as good citizens as adults. It is also to assist children who cannot defend themselves against neglectful or abusive parents. The main focus is on providing minors with consistent and behavioral help so they will exist normally in adult society.

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