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What is a Juvenile Offender?

By Charity Delich
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By anon324559 — On Mar 11, 2013

If people weren't so messed up at raising their kids, then the kids might actually do well with their lives.

I think the only reason why kids do stupid stuff like get arrested for something they did is probably cause they don't get enough attention at home from family and just want their families to know that they are actually there. That is just what I think.

And if the kid doesn't want to straighten up after being bonded out of juvie, then just wait for them to mess up again and leave them in there the next time they get arrested. It's the only way they'll learn.

By jellies — On May 25, 2011

It is unfortunate that there are such risks involved for young people placed in juvenile offender programs like detention facilities. I understand that the juvenile offender has done something to deserve some type of punishment. But, they face the presence of gangs. They may receive rough discipline from staff members who aren’t trained to handle the kind of conflict they face.

There are too many situations with unsafe staff to inmate ratios. These places are sometimes overpopulated and understaffed. If these facilities have undertrained staff, it can result in the use of control and restraint in a situation that could have been diffused without resorting to physical measures.

I think juvenile detention centers could use an overhaul. The focus should include well trained staff and rehabilitative measures. I think this could lend to lower rates of repeat offenders among juveniles.

By liz1103 — On May 24, 2011

I am a believer in the effectiveness of boot camps for juvenile offenders. These programs are a great way to instill discipline, responsibility, and pride. If you take a juvenile offender and give them the confidence and ability to believe in themselves, you will often find a decrease in illegal behavior.

So many troubled teens resort to things that land them in trouble. When these young men and women gain some self worth, it can be easier to elevate them and bring them into a reality with more positive outlets.

Boot camps are not a cure all for every juvenile or every case. But these boot camps will hold teens accountable. While some may balk, statistics support the idea that these programs can have success. The structure and removal from environmental dangers alone can have a huge impact.

Boot camps do generally have criteria and are open mostly to first time offenders. But, the experience can create a more positive life for a troubled teen as well as his or her parents.

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