Juvenile delinquency refers to the participation of minors in illegal behavior. Minors are considered to be people under the statutory majority age. In the United States, the majority age is 18 years old in most states. In Alabama and Nebraska, the majority age is 19 years old; in Wisconsin, Texas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Missouri, Michigan, New York, and Georgia, the majority age is 17 years old.
There are three main types of juvenile delinquency. These categories encompass most offenses:
- Crimes that have been committed by a minor, which are tried and dealt with through a juvenile court and juvenile justice system
- Criminal behavior and crimes dealt with through a criminal justice system
- Status offenses, which only exist because the person in question is a minor, tried and dealt with through juvenile court
One example of a status offense is truancy.
Juvenile delinquency can often be predicted due to the parenting style of the minor or the minor’s peer group association. When a parent is neglectful or overly indulgent and fails to impose behavioral consequences, children are more likely to engage in illegal behaviors because they do not have a developed understanding of consequences. On the opposite end of the spectrum, authoritarian parenting and unfairly strict households can cause children to act out because of repression. If a child associates with an antisocial peer group, especially if they’re unsupervised in their adolescence, they will be more likely to engage in illegal behavior.
Teenagers from poor socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to become juvenile delinquents. Other risk factors include peer rejection, ADHD, and poor performance in school. Biological factors might also play a part, such as high serotonin levels or a low resting heart rate. When high serotonin is at play, people experience increased impulsiveness and temper.
There are behavioral and psychological risk factors at an individual level as well. These might include a lack of empathy, restlessness, impulsiveness, and low intelligence.
The juvenile court system functions very differently from the adult court system. Juvenile courts function with their own terminology, politics, practices, and customs. The delivery systems for juvenile courts will vary widely depending on the state you’re in.
A juvenile defense attorney will represent a child in court. Juvenile defense attorneys serve an important role because they help protect the child against law enforcement and an eager prosecution. The juvenile court system can be overwhelming and stressful, especially when a child is facing severe consequences.
Legally speaking, a juvenile defense attorney works for the accused child rather than the entire family. But defense attorneys and families often find that working together is the best way to come to a solution. In many ways, a juvenile defense attorney can help a child’s family understand the flow of the court system. They can also teach families how to advocate for their children. Juvenile defense attorneys are powerful forces for children.
In a delinquency case, both parents and youth often have a preconceived notion of what exactly the attorney’s role is. This idea might not reflect the ethical and legal responsibilities of the defender. Also, parental ideas for defense might differ from the child’s ideas. All involved ideas might be different from those being presented by the police and prosecution. A juvenile defense attorney must handle these competing factors with skill and dexterity.
The defense attorney will go over the facts of the case with the child, and possibly with their family. They will explain the options that are available going forward. They will also represent the child’s interests during the negotiations and potential trial proceedings. The goal of the defense attorney is to work for the benefit of the child.
Many parts of the juvenile court system exist to discourage juveniles from repeat offenses. This often includes rehabilitative measures and professional intervention. Defense attorneys can provide the child with the resources they need to avoid further offenses in the future.