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It's natural for juveniles in Virginia to make mistakes, and sometimes these mistakes involve breaking state laws. While a person who is under the age of 18 might be granted more leeway than an adult, that doesn't mean there aren't penalties assessed in the juvenile law system. Being a teenager is not an excuse to commit acts that are against the law. Knowing the way the juvenile justice system functions is the first step when a juvenile ends up charged with a crime.

Anyone under the age of 18 is considered a juvenile. The juvenile law system is built to deal with juveniles who have been accused of committing crimes. The system is the main responsibility of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. Juveniles are treated differently from adults since there is both a better chance of rehabilitating a juvenile and that juveniles might not be fully cognizant of their acts. Juveniles can still be held accountable for what they've done with an emphasis on rehabilitating them rather than punishing them. Of course, this depends on what they're charged with. Educating them and providing them with therapy are two tactics that are used to help juveniles and their families.

There are certain terms that are used in juvenile court that are not used in adult court. If an adult committed a certain act that would be considered a crime and it was committed by a juvenile, the juvenile is referred to as a delinquent. If certain acts are committed that would not be criminal offenses like curfew violations, a juvenile would be called a status offender. A child who runs away or is truant will be considered a child in need of supervision. If a child behaves in a manner that is considered to be a threat to the child or to another and requires rehabilitation, treatment or some other form of help, the child is considered a child in need of services.

The juvenile law system, while less onerous in its penalties for a teenager or anyone under the age of 18, is still a legal system with penalties that can affect a person's life for an extended period. Those who have been arrested and face the penalties of juvenile crimes need to formulate a strong defense with the help of a legal professional to avoid long-term penalties.

Source: Virginia Office of the Attorney General, "Introduction to Juvenile Justice in Virginia," accessed on Feb. 8, 2015

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