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When youth in Virginia and elsewhere find themselves in trouble, they many think that they will get off easily. Although juvenile offenders face less harsh penalties when compared to their adult counterparts, this does not keep the minor entirely free from facing serious consequences. Even though a juvenile may enter the legal system through juvenile court, it is possible for a juvenile to be charged as an adult and continue through the adult system.

Thus, it is important for juvenile defendants to be aware of both the juvenile and adult process. Anyone between the age of ten and eighteen is considered to be a minor in most states; however, some states have set their maximum juvenile age to sixteen. Once the accused surpasses the age limit in the state, he or she is considered an adult in the eyes of the law. It should be noted that older juveniles that are accused of serious or violent crimes could be tried as an adult.

The rights of juveniles differ from adults when it comes to the criminal proceedings. Juveniles do not experience the same constitutional rights. For example, they have adjudication hearings that are heard by a judge and are not afforded a trial by a jury of their peers. Additionally, they do not have the right to bail or to a public trial. On the other hand, juveniles enjoy extra protections. For example, their records are sealed so they are not penalized by their juvenile offenses for the rest of their lives.

Court rulings and sentencing in the juvenile system greatly differs from the adult system. If a juvenile is found guilty, a judge must follow certain guidelines, acting in the best interest of the child. While the adult system seeks to punish offenders, the juvenile system seeks to rehabilitate juveniles so they can live a productive adult life.

Although minors have a lesser understand of the law, this does not mean that laws do not apply to them. Thus, it is imperative to understand your rights and options, especially when it comes to developing a criminal defense. Whether you are tried as a juvenile or an adult, you are afforded the right to a criminal defense.

Source: Findlaw.com, "How do Juvenile Proceedings Differ from Adult Criminal Proceedings?" accessed Oct. 15, 2017

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