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Differences in Pennsylvania juvenile and adult defense

If your child has been charged with an offense and is destined for a trip through the juvenile justice system, one of your concerns may be whether he or she will be treated the same as an adult. The answer is that unless your child is charged as an adult, he or she should have an experience that focuses more on help and rehabilitation and less on punishment.

Even some of the lingo in the juvenile justice system is different than it is for adults. For example, there are "adjudication hearings" instead of trials and "juvenile acts" instead of crimes. The criminal records of minors are also sealed. However, your child is not entitled to a jury trial or to bail.

Timeline For Juvenile Proceedings

The court may decide to hold a juvenile if a legal guardian cannot or does not step forward to take custody or if a minor is considered to be a threat or flight risk. In the typical case, though, a juvenile is released into the custody of his or her parents, not held in jail like an adult might be. There is a preliminary hearing within 72 hours of the arrest to determine release. The next court appearance will likely be for an adjudication hearing where the judge rules on the case. A defense attorney can represent the juvenile, but there is no jury. Like with an adult defendant, it is important that your child has an attorney who advocates for his or her best interests and who can put together an effective defense that challenges the evidence, if necessary.

The Role Parents Play

In many juvenile justice proceedings, judges may question the parents about a child's behavior and history. How parents answer these questions, may carry a lot of weight in what the judge decides. In most cases, a "disposition order" leads to probation, but juvenile detention is possible.