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When a minor is charged with a crime, they will likely go through a different court process from what an adult would for the same crime. According to the law, the juvenile court system generally covers children between the ages of 7 and 18. If a minor under the age of 7 commits a crime, they typically cannot be tried in any court, but their parents may be liable. Being under 18 is not a guarantee that one will be tried in juvenile court. In some cases, particularly those involving homicide, rape, and other severe crimes, teenagers may be tried as adults.

If your loved one is accused of committing a juvenile criminal offense as a minor in Virginia, the police officer on the case may be able to use his or her discretion to decide what happens next. The officer may choose to issue a warning and release the minor after a brief detainment or release the minor to their parents. They may also choose to take the minor into custody, where the minor may be referred to a juvenile court officer. This officer or a prosecutor will evaluate the case and decide whether to press formal charges against the minor. This decision will be based on the severity of the crime, minor's past record, evidence and attitude.

If the prosecutor or court officer chooses not to proceed formally, they can dismiss the case or ask the minor to appear in front the officer or judge. The officer or judge may then issue a warning, or issue an informal judgment by requiring the child to perform community service, go on probation, pay a fine, or receive counseling.

If the case proceeds to juvenile court, the minor will be formally charged in front of a judge at their arraignment. Once he or she is charged, a hearing will take place and the minor will enter a plea. If the minor enters a not-delinquent plea, a trial may take place. If the judge finds the minor to be delinquent in the case of some or all of the charges filed against them, the judge will issue a sentence which may involve juvenile detention, probation and other penalties. To avoid serious legal and non-legal consequences, it is in a minor's best interest to avoid formal charges in the first place.

Source: FindLaw, "Minor Crime Is a Major Ordeal," accessed on Nov. 21, 2017

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