As an attempt to serve in the best interest of the child, the juvenile justice system treats youth much differently than adults. For instance, when an adult is charged with a crime, the ultimate issue is whether he is guilty of a specific violation of the Criminal Code. On the other hand, when a juvenile is accused of a crime (in situations not involving major felonies or motor vehicle violations) the law does not seek to determine which law was broken. Instead the determination must be made whether or not this youth is a Juvenile Delinquent. Based upon this adjudication, he is then "reformed" so that he can re-enter society as a productive, or at least non-threatening individual.
There are other distinctions between juvenile and criminal courts as well. Juvenile courts conduct "hearings" rather then trials, they order "dispositions" rather than sentences, and they accept "petitions of delinquency" in lieu of criminal complaints.
By far, the most vast difference between the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system is how one arrives there. Whereas an adult is processed through the criminal justice system as a result of an arrest, summons, or citation, a juvenile may be referred to court by law enforcement agencies, schools, parents, probation officers, and even victims.
This initial step, performed by either the juvenile court or an executive intake unit, decides whether formal proceedings are warranted. Rather than court proceedings, it may be suggested that a psychiatric evaluation, counseling, or an informal probation is all that is needed.
If it is determined that formal proceedings are warranted, the intake unit files a petition with the court for a hearing. Depending on the circumstances, prior to the hearing the juvenile may be:
- Released into the custody of the parents or guardians
- Put into protective custody (foster home or runaway shelter)
- Admitted to detention facility
When Juveniles are Tried as Adults
The age at which Ohio and Kentucky criminal courts gain jurisdiction over young offenders is 18. However, a juvenile case may be referred to criminal court in certain instances. A high percentage of these "juvenile tried as adult" cases are convicted, but the ones who are represented by private attorneys were far less likely to be convicted and more likely to be transferred back to juvenile court.
If your child has committed an offense or in any way been referred to the juvenile justice system in Ohio or Kentucky, it is of the utmost importance to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for your child's rights. Call Lisa Wenzel today for a free consultation.