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Juvenile Penalties in Comparison to Adult Criminal Penalties

In Juvenile Court, the emphasis is on rehabilitation. The Court, in imposing a sentence, will try and focus on helping the minor find a more positive path, rather than continue committing offenses. In the general Criminal Justice System the emphasis is often on the person convicted paying their dues to society.

For example, a person steals a necklace from a local jewelry store, is charged and convicted. If the person is an adult, the justice system will make amends so that the person returns the necklace or a monetary value, and pays his debt to society by paying a fine, serving jail time, or community service.

If the person charged was a juvenile, the court will impose a penalty that includes counseling sessions, some study into the child's background and family life and possibly in a home where they are supervised and surrounded by positive influences and activities.

Types of Penalties

For minor offenses, the court may sentence a minor to be on Probation with an officer to report to. They may also impose mandatory counseling.

For minors that are involved in recurring offenses, or involve serious crimes are often placed in residential probation camps. As the offenses increase, or warrant more serious penalties, the child is moved up along a ladder of programs.

For example, if a child is convicted of petty theft on a first offense, he or she will probably be given probation and asked to attend mandatory counseling sessions. If he commits a second theft offense, or a similar , more severe offense, he may be sentenced to some time in a Probation camp. If he commits a third offense, it will be taken more seriously and the penalty will be more severe. It will involve more supervision, curfew and possibly restricted house arrest.

Southern California Juvenile Court vs. Criminal Court

Who is Charged in Juvenile Court?

When a crime has been committed by someone who is under the age of 18, they will be asked to appear before a Judge in juvenile court, and not before a Judge in the adult criminal justice system. Although most juveniles charged with a crime will be scheduled to appear before the youth justice system, that is not always the case.

In certain situations, the minor will be asked to appear before a criminal Judge in the Criminal court. If the charge involves murder, rape, or serious crimes, the minor will be tried in the adult Court.

Right to A Jury Trial

One of the biggest differences between the two types of courts is the fact that a juvenile does not have a right to a jury trial. Any issue before the Judge in a juvenile court will be heard by the Judge and determined by the Judge after having carefully weighed both sides. In adult court, the person being charged can accept a plea bargain or opt to have their case heard. If they choose to have their case heard, it will be heard in front of a Jury, which will then make a decision on the verdict.

Severity of Consequences

Much like the sentencing for adults, Judges in juvenile court will use legislative guidelines to determine an adequate sentence for a youth that has been convicted. However, potential consequences for minors tend to be more severe for certain offenses than for adults. This is because the ultimate goal with minors in imposing a sentence is different from that of the adult court.

The emphasis for the general criminal court is for the adult to pay their debt to society, whether it be monetary, in terms of community service or jail time. The goal with Juveniles is to prevent them from continuing down a bad path, and to get them on the right track so they do not commit more crimes in the future. The focus is more on rehabilitation than punishment.