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In criminal law, a juvenile offender is a person under a certain age who has been charged with a criminal act. Different jurisdictions have varying standards on what age a person must be in order to be tried as a juvenile. Generally, a person under the age of 17 or 18 is considered a juvenile offender. For more serious offenses, like murder or rape, a juvenile may be removed from the juvenile justice system and tried as an adult, depending on the circumstances.
The focus of most juvenile criminal court systems is rehabilitating, rather than punishing, a juvenile offender. Usually, all of the parties to the case work collaboratively to form a rehabilitation plan for the offender. This may mean that law enforcement officers, the prosecuting juvenile court attorney, and the juvenile corrections department work with the judge, the defense juvenile law attorney, and the probation department to best formulate a plan to help the juvenile offender. Juveniles often receive extra assistance, which may include counseling, drug rehabilitation, and anger management programs.
A juvenile offender’s rights during a criminal case vary depending on the jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions allow juveniles to have a jury trial while juveniles are tried in front of a judge in other jurisdictions. Court proceedings are typically more relaxed in juvenile cases than in adult cases. If a juvenile offender is found guilty of a crime, he or she may be placed on probation and is often required to perform community service. Alternatively, the offender may be sentenced to time in a juvenile prison, which is typically the case for more serious offenses.
Juvenile offenders may have their records sealed when they become adults, depending on the jurisdiction. Several factors may also influence this, such as the kind of crime committed and whether the offender has prior criminal history. For example, a juvenile convicted of a sex crime may be required to register as a sex offender even when he or she becomes an adult. In some jurisdictions, a juvenile offender’s record is automatically sealed when he or she becomes an adult. It can, however, be unsealed if the juvenile commits a crime as an adult.
When a juvenile offender repeatedly performs crimes, he or she may be referred to as a juvenile delinquent. Children with psychological disorders and behavioral problems are particularly susceptible to juvenile delinquency. Many governments are taking a more proactive role in preventing juveniles from becoming delinquents by funding programs that seek to keep youth from becoming involved in criminal activities.