Pittsburgh Juvenile Crime Attorney
When one of your children is arrested for committing a crime, it can be a horrible experience. You might be angry, embarrassed, shocked, or even depressed. On top of it all, you will worry about what to do. You need the assistance of an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney.
Juvenile crimes are also referred to as “juvenile delinquency.” These crimes are committed by a person who is under the age of 18, often referred to as a minor, and, if they are committed by an adult, are considered to be criminal offenses.
Adult Court versus Juvenile Court
In Pennsylvania, the experiences of children as they move through the criminal justice system vary greatly from those of adults. Not only do juvenile courts work independently of adult courts, they also have different goals than adult courts do.
One of the main objectives of adult courts is to hand out punishment for law breakers. In juvenile courts, the main objective is to rehabilitate the youths that come through it.
The reason they do this is to give the minors an opportunity to grow up to be productive, law-abiding citizens. Young people have long lives ahead of them; the juvenile court system attempts to help them live it safely and well.
One of the differences between adult courts and juvenile court is the language used. In adult court, people are found guilty of “crimes,” where in juvenile court, crimes are referred to as “juvenile acts,” except in the case of very violent crimes. What is referred to in adult court as a “trial” is called an “adjudication hearing” in juvenile court. A juvenile crime lawyer in Pittsburgh can represent your child at this hearing.
Because the law views minors as children, minors have more protection than adults do as they go through the court system. One of the ways minors are protected is that their juvenile court records are sealed, so that no one outside the juvenile system can access them. Another way in which juvenile courts protect minors is to refrain from sentencing them to time in adult jails.
For all these protections, minors do not have all the same rights as adults do. Minors cannot get a jury trial, and have no right to have bond set for them.
Juvenile Justice System
Generally, a juvenile will enter the juvenile justice system upon being arrested. They will not be kept in jail immediately afterward, like an adult would be, unless they are at risk of running away, are a threat to the general public, or don’t have a guardian or parent into whose custody they can go.
Juvenile crimes, called “delinquent acts,” are filed similarly to how adult charges are filed.
Once arrested, the minor will have a preliminary hearing within 72 hours, the purpose of which is to decide whether or not they can be released. If there is enough evidence to keep them, their case will be sent on. The next step is a formal adjudication hearing. This hearing is much like a criminal trial an adult would face.
While there is no jury in this hearing, the minor can have a defense attorney with them to represent them. There will also be a district attorney and a judge.
If the crime is severe enough, such as a violent crime or a summary offense, the minor can be tried in a regular, adult court.
The minor will not be found guilty or not guilty at the adjudication hearing. What will be determined is if they did or did not commit juvenile acts. If they have, there are many options available to the judge, called “disposition orders,” that he can use to sentence the juvenile.
Usually, a juvenile gets probation. However, it is possible the minor will be sent to a juvenile detention facility or child welfare facility.
Minors may have to pay restitution to victims of their crimes, to repay them for lost or damaged property, or personal injury. Sometimes, they must also pay fees or fines to the court and/or community.