Your Child And Juvenile Court: The 411

Do you have a child who has come into contact with the juvenile justice system? In that case, you need to educate yourself about how the legal system deals with this issue. Here is a closer look at some of the key facts concerning how the law addresses misbehavior by juveniles.  

Juvenile Definition  

Whether or not your child will be considered a juvenile by the legal authorities depends on your state of residence. In the majority of states, a juvenile is someone who is under 18. Several other states, including Michigan and Georgia, define a juvenile as someone who has not yet reached the age of 17. Two states, New York and North Carolina, consider anyone under the age of 16 to be juvenile.  

Not all children under the age limits who commits an offense, however, will go through to a juvenile court hearing. Some states have laws that prevent children age 10 or younger from being judged culpable. 

Key Differences 

The juvenile court system has some important differences from the adult system. For example, unlike an adult offender, a juvenile does not have the constitutional right to a jury trial. Typically, the judicial proceeding in a juvenile case is adjudicated before a judge, not a jury. In some states, however, the juvenile may face a jury trial for certain offenses. 

Another key differences is that a juvenile does not have the right to bail.  Even though there is no constitutional right to bail, your child may still be released to your custody without bail until the case is resolved. 


The penalties for a defendant found to be guilty, or "delinquent," in juvenile court are often different from the penalties that adult offenders face. For example, if your child is judged delinquent, he might be given a verbal warning or fined or required to perform community service. In some instances, you could lose custody, and he could be sent to live with another adult. The judge might insist that your child undergo professional counseling. For serious offenses, serving time in a juvenile detention facility is also a possibility. 

A critical point to keep in mind is that the parent of a juvenile offender might be subjected to certain legal punishments if their child is delinquent. For example, if your child commits an offense, you might be required to pay restitution to any victims of the crime, pay court costs, or perform community service along with your child. 

The juvenile court system is difficult to navigate successfully without expert legal help. If your child is facing juvenile legal proceedings, consult with an experienced criminal law attorney