The criminal justice systems for adults and juveniles diverge considerably in philosophy, process, and outcomes. If you’ve been charged as an adult or dealing with a child or loved one who has been charged as a juvenile, this can be an immensely challenging time. 

Understanding these differences between the adult and juvenile criminal processes can help you know what to expect when moving forward. 

Understanding the different terminologies of the adult and juvenile justice systems can shed light on their contrasting approaches.

In general, adults are labeled as “criminals,” indicating a person who has committed a crime. The legal process proceeds through trials at which guilt is decided. 

In contrast, the language used in the juvenile justice system intentionally veers away from such potentially stigmatizing terms for defendants. A young individual who has committed a criminal act is often referred to as a “delinquent.” Instead of trials, juveniles may have “adjudication hearings,” where it’s determined if they are responsible for their actions – known as an adjudication.

Sentencing and Rehabilitation

The fundamental philosophy underpinning the adult criminal system tends to be about retribution – to serve justice through punishment such as incarceration or fines. Here, measures are traditionally designed to deter the individual from future misconduct.

On the other hand, juvenile cases are anchored in a rehabilitative philosophy that leans more towards rectifying behavior than strictly punishing it. The system is supposed to offer a more personalized approach that focuses on molding juveniles through education, therapy, community service, or placement in treatment facilities. The overall goal is to reform and positively reintegrate the young individual back into society.

This fundamental difference defines how court proceedings unfold and how decisions are made concerning each case.

Privacy and Records

The juvenile justice system takes privacy very seriously, both in proceedings and in records. These cases are usually treated with a high degree of confidentiality to protect the identity of minors involved – most hearings take place behind closed doors outside public scrutiny. 

Additionally, juvenile records carry several protective measures not as often afforded by adult court records. 

Juvenile offenses are more commonly eligible for sealing or expungement. This means their criminal history is either hidden from standard background checks (sealed) or destroyed altogether (expunged).

Similarities Between the Adult and Juvenile System

Despite the pronounced differences, there are some fundamental legal rights held constant in both adult and juvenile justice systems, including: 

Right to Counsel

Regardless of age, everyone charged with a crime is entitled to have a lawyer. If the defendant cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to them free of charge. 

The Right to Cross-Examine and Confront Witnesses

Youths, like adults, maintain the right to challenge evidence brought against them. They can cross-examine witnesses as part of establishing their defenses during adjudicative hearings.

The Right to Not Incriminate Yourself

Enshrined in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, protection against self-incrimination applies equally in adult and juvenile courts. No person can be coerced into providing a confession or making statements that might incriminate themselves during any stage of criminal proceedings.

The Right to Know the Charges Against You

Under another constitutional protection, both adult and juvenile defendants have the right to be informed of what they’re being charged with. They must fully understand their alleged offense so there’s clarity and allowance for them to prepare an adequate defense.

The Prosecution Must Prove the Charges Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

In both systems, juveniles or adults accused of committing an unlawful act are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden falls on prosecutors to satisfy stringent evidentiary standards, proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt

A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Through the Adult or Juvenile Criminal Processes

Understanding the differences and similarities between the adult and juvenile court systems is crucial for any affected person or their loved ones. Only with this knowledge can you navigate your options appropriately and get the best outcome possible for your case. 

If you have questions or need help with a criminal matter, a criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate the process.

Contact the Dayton Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today

For more information, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC. Give us a call today at (937) 531-0435 or visit us at our Dayton law office.

Suhre & Associates, LLC – Dayton
130 West Second Street #17-129
Dayton, OH 45402
United States