The juvenile court system is designed to address issues specific to young defendants, with a focus on rehabilitation. However, many people underestimate the significance of a juvenile conviction. Contrary to popular belief, juvenile convictions are not automatically sealed once a juvenile reaches adulthood. In reality, juvenile convictions can have a lasting impact on a person’s criminal record, and can even be used to enhance adult offenses. Another common misconception is that juveniles cannot go to jail. Although juveniles are not typically held in state prisons, it is not uncommon for juvenile defendants to spend time in detention centers or commitment programs, the juvenile equivalent of jail. For these reasons it is extremely important that you hire an experienced attorney to handle any juvenile criminal charge.
Some things to remember about juvenile court:
• For the most part, juveniles have the same constitutional rights as adults. However, juveniles are accustomed to taking orders from adults. For this reason, most juvenile defendants do not immediately realize when they have been subjected to an unlawful search or arrest. Just like in adult court, an unlawful search or arrest could lead to suppression of the evidence and even dismissal of the case.
• Although the stated purpose of the juvenile justice system is to serve “the best interest of the child,” that does not mean that they will be given a slap on the wrist and sent home. The Court has the authority to commit a juvenile defendant to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice until their 19th birthday.
• Juvenile convictions are weighed heavily by colleges and potential employers. It is extremely important for juveniles to maintain a clean record if at all possible.