Criminal offenses committed by juveniles, which are defined as individuals under 18 years of age, are heard in juvenile court. Juvenile court is typically located in the county courthouse but the procedure is much different than regular adult court.
In adult court, the primary focus is punishment of the individual for the crimes committed. Such punishment includes fines, probation, and/or jail time. In juvenile court, the focus is not on punishment but rather rehabilitation of the juvenile. If an individual is found to be delinquent, which is the equivalent of guilty in adult court, the focus will be on how to keep the juvenile from reoffending by offering treatment, counseling, and probation. For more serious offenses, or for multiple offenders, placement is possible in a juvenile facility.
While the standard is the same as an adult court, meaning proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that is where the similarity ends. Unlike adult court, a juvenile does not plead guilty but instead is “adjudicated delinquent”. There are also many different programs available designed to help the juvenile such as mental health treatment, drug treatment, first time offender programs, etc. Once a juvenile turns 18, he is now an adult in the eyes of the law and any crimes committed after 18 would be held in adult criminal court.
If a juvenile was found delinquent, it would appear on his criminal history, aka rap sheet which could affect schooling, future emoloyment and other aspects of life. Expungement of the criminal record as possible after the juvenile turns 21 and is no longer on juvenile probation.
If your son and daughter is charged as a juvenile in County Court and has no prior record, he or she may be eligible for a special diversionary program.
An Informal Adjustment may be recommended by the Juvenile Probation officer for minor offenses, such as Possession of Marijuana, minor Retail Theft (Shoplifting) cases, or Underage Drinking. An informal adjustment disposition is handled outside of court, so your juvenile would not have to appear before a judge and would not be found delinquent or asked to admit guilt. The probation officer would propose conditions such as community service, treatment, and/or restitution, and once a period of informal probation passes without any issues, the case is then dismissed.
A Consent Decree is more formal process than an Informal Adjustment because the juvenile must go before a County Judge and the prosecutor must formally make a recommendation for placement into a Consent Decree disposition. Like an Informal Adjustment, there is no finding of guilt with a Consent Decree and the charges eventually get dismissed after completion of conditions that are set by the juvenile probation officer. Once the charges are dismissed some counties will automatically expunge it from the juvenile’s record, while in other counties the juvenile would have to file a motion to have his record expunged.
If the juvenile is not eligible for a first-time offender program and is found to be delinquent, the following could potentially result:
- Indefinite probation
- Detention in a juvenile facility, treatment center, or group home.
- Community Service
- Payment of Restitution/Fines
- Mandatory counseling for substance abuse, anger management, etc.
If your son or daughter is currently in college and find themselves in trouble with the police, the consequences could be devastating to their future depending on the crime.
College students are in a gray area in that they are no longer considered juveniles after the age of 18 and your young adult will instead be prosecuted in adult court.
Some crimes, especially those committed on campus, could lead to expulsion or suspension of financial aid/scholarships.
The attorneys at Ellis B. Klein & Associates have successfully defended college students attending over 25 colleges and universities statewide for offense such as:Underage Drinking
Underage Drinking is by far the most common offense charged on college campuses. It is a summary offense, which is an offense that does not rise to the level of criminal conduct, but it is still serious and can still affect your child’s future.
If an individual under the age of 21 drinks alcohol, has alcohol in his possession, transports alcohol, or attempts to buy alcohol is guilty of underage drinking. It is punishable by up to a $300 fine, and carries with it a license suspension of 90 days for a first offense, one year for a second offense and two years for a third offense. Should your young adult suffer a license suspension, it will appear on his driving record which could have a negative effect on auto insurance premiums. While a conviction technically does not appear on a criminal record, a.k.a. rap sheet, there is a record of it in the court system and if a background check is run that checks for court cases then it will appear to potential future employers or schools.Carrying a False ID
It is illegal in Pennsylvania for an individual under 21 to carry fake ID. If your young adult is caught attempting to purchase alcohol with a fake ID, or attempts to use the ID to gain entry into a bar or a club, he could be facing the same penalties as underage drinking including the case appearing in the court records and suspension of driver’s license.
If your young adult has no prior police contact, he may be eligible for a pre-adjudication program for Underage Drinking or Carrying a False ID. Many district courts located near college campuses have special programs for young adults who have never been in trouble. These programs usually involve some sort of alcohol counseling, possible community service, and fines. Once all of the conditions are met, the citation either gets dismissed or downgraded to a lesser offense. License suspension is still possible for a pre-adjudication program and it varies from court to court, so be sure to retain an experienced local attorney who knows the local system well.Other common crimes committed by College Students
Retail Theft (Shoplifting)
This offense can be punishable by a fine if it is a first offense and the value of the merchandise is under $150, or could be a misdemeanor or even a felony if there is a prior record for shoplifting. Your college student would have to appear in court and if there is no prior record may be eligible for ARD or another type of first-time offender program.
Furnishing Alcohol to Minors
This crime occurs if an individual over the age of 21 supplies someone under the age of 21 with alcohol. This usually happens when a senior buys alcohol for his underage friends or throws a party where alcohol is served to minors. It is a graded as a misdemeanor of the third degree.
This crime involves an individual under 21 driving a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of over .02%. It is a misdemeanor that may be punished with jail time, license suspension and hefty fines.
Criminal Mischief (Vandalism)
This crime occurs if property of another is destroyed, the faster otherwise damaged. Depending on the amount of damage it can range from a fine to a felony of the third degree.
If you were charged with a juvenile crime it is best to retain an experience local criminal defense attorney to assist, as local attorneys are more familiar with local programs and tend to have a better relationship with the prosecution and with the probation department. If you cannot afford a private attorney, most counties will appoint a public defender for free to represent the juvenile.
No matter what crime your juvenile or young adult is charged with, you should immediately contact an experienced, local defense attorney to assist you. Local attorneys are more knowledgeable about the local court system and would be aware of any special programs that might be available to you.
Call the attorneys at Ellis B. Klein & Associates immediately for a free consultation. We gladly talk to potential clients over the phone, or in person if you prefer, for free. We would be happy to answer all of your questions and guide you in the right direction so you can make an informed decision about choosing a defense attorney who is right for you. Call us at 800-536-0501 immediately for a free consultation.