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Understanding juvenile proceedings

Families in South Carolina may benefit from learning about some of the differences between juvenile criminal proceedings and adult trials. In most of the country, an individual aged between 10 and 18 is considered a juvenile. In some states, the maximum age to be considered a juvenile is 16. When an older juvenile commits a serious or violent offense, they are more likely to be charged as an adult in court.

Adult courts and juvenile courts often use different terminology as well. In juvenile hearings, crimes are referred to as delinquent acts. In the juvenile system, trials are referred to as adjudication hearings. Juveniles are not afforded the same constitutional rights as adults. Juveniles do not have the right to be tried before their peers, so a judge may be the only authority presiding over the case. Juveniles do not have the right to a public trial or bail either.

Even though juveniles do not have all the same rights, they are afforded more protections than adults in a criminal proceeding. In addition, juveniles' records are sealed and can be expunged once they turn 18 and comply with certain conditions. Juveniles are also entitled to prerelease if the delinquent offense was not violent. In regards to sentencing, judges are expected issue orders in accord to what is in the best interest of the child. The sentencing phase of the juvenile system is intended to focus more on achieving rehabilitation than levying punishment.

Families who need more in-depth information about juvenile charges may benefit from consulting a lawyer. Legal counsel may be effective in protecting a juvenile's rights and best interests going forward. Lawyers may also be helpful in negotiating more lenient sentencing for the delinquent as well. Legal representation may also assist juveniles facing underage drinking charges.

Source: Findlaw , "How do Juvenile Proceedings Differ from Adult Criminal Proceedings?", November 21, 2014

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