Kids in handcuffs

Comparing Adult and Juvenile Criminal Court

When a person is charged with a crime, it can represent an extremely difficult time for the accused that’s rife with uncertainty and trepidation. If you’ve been accused of any crime, the first step you should take is finding an attorney who can help you formulate a defense to the charges against you. An attorney will be your ally who will fight for your constitutional rights and advocate on your behalf to see that justice is served.

However, not all charges and accusations are alike. In fact, there are some substantial differences in the law that are dependent on the age of the person accused. While most people charged with crimes are charged as adults, juveniles who have been accused of illicit acts are tried in a separate system of juvenile law. Though the end goal of both courts is justice, the mechanisms and terminology of the two courts can differ. If you’re a juvenile accused of delinquent acts, it’s important that you find a qualified juvenile law attorney in Anne Arundel County to help prepare your defense. Keep reading to learn more about some of the key points of similarity and difference between adult and juvenile court.

Similarities Between Adult and Juvenile Courts

While there are many technical differences between adult and juvenile court proceedings, the overarching goals of both courts are the same. Both are designed to provide a mechanism for providing justice while ensuring the rights of the accused are upheld. Juveniles who are charged with delinquency have many of the same protections of those charged with adult crimes, and in some cases, there are enhanced protections that provide further consideration for youths charged with delinquency. Juveniles accused of delinquent acts have a right to a hearing in which they can confront their accusers. They can also call witnesses to offer testimony, they can offer testimony themselves or plead the Fifth Amendment, and they can question the validity and applicability of evidence against them and provide evidence of their own. Cases formulated by prosecutors against juvenile defendants must be proven without a reasonable doubt, as is the case in adult court. Juveniles are also guaranteed the right to counsel from a juvenile law defense attorney to help prepare a defense against accusations of delinquent acts.

Differences Between Adult and Juvenile Courts

One of the first differences that is noticeable between the two courts is the terminology used. Whereas adults are charged with crimes, juveniles are charged with delinquent acts unless the juvenile is being tried as an adult. Charges filed against adults are conferred via a document known as a complaint, but juveniles are charged by way of petition. Unlike in adult court, there are no convictions in juvenile court. Instead, if a juvenile defendant is found guilty, that defendant is adjudicated delinquent. Once a case has been successfully prosecuted involving an adult, the defendant is sentenced. However, juveniles aren’t sentenced, but instead receive a disposition that details rehabilitative or punitive action.

Adult defendant in court

Aside from the linguistic differences, there are other mechanical differences between the two courts as well. Juveniles charged with delinquent acts have far more options designed to divert prosecution than defendants in adult court. The goal of juvenile court isn’t necessarily punitive, but rather it’s rehabilitative. Therefore, the family of the accused plays a role in the case and its disposition to a greater extent than in adult court. Also, there are no jury trials in juvenile court. Unlike adult court in which the accused is entitled to a public trial, the case against a juvenile is heard in closed court by a judge only.

Understanding the differences between adult and juvenile law can be difficult without the help of an attorney who is knowledgeable of the legal mechanisms of juvenile defense law. If you’re in need of a juvenile or adult defense attorney, contact Ortega Law at (410) 760-6008.