In most countries across the world, separate courts exist to hear cases that try those who are still defined as juveniles for crimes that they have committed.
Sentences for crimes committed as a juvenile are typically different from those for adults, with separate juvenile detention facilities to detain them.
Typically, however, the main goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation rather than punishment, and for crimes usually centering around property destruction, truancy, running away from home, shoplifting, hate crimes, drug possession or underage drinking.
Hearings for juvenile crimes in family court or probate court are usually held in private. It's also important to note that juvenile criminal records are permanent, but confidential. They cannot be given out to anyone without a court order. However, they
may be used as evidence later in an adult trial. In addition, the information is also routinely asked on applications to
the US Armed Forces.
In some cases, (usually when the crime is particularly heinous), a juvenile may be tried as an adult, in which case they are
subject to all the expectations, punishment, fines, and sentences of an adult court.
Protecting juveniles from themselves
Generally, society limits the rights and freedoms that juveniles have as compared to adults, but in most cases these are not responsibilities that juveniles are usually deemed able to handle. Although most teens would probably disagree, juvenile laws basically
exist to protect minors from themselves.
is, however, no universally defined age for when a young person stops becoming a juvenile and starts becoming an adult. In
many cases the age is 18, but there is a great deal of variety throughout the world and even variations on juvenile law by US state.
In the state of New York, for example, a juvenile is defined as someone under the age of 16. And, as any young person who has traveled abroad knows well, the drinking age of 21 in the United States is quite above the average when compared to the rest of the
In the US and worldwide there are child labor laws, curfews, gun laws, driving laws, voting laws, cigarette and tobacco laws, and marriage laws that all curtail the rights and freedoms of juveniles in some way. Even some entertainment, such as R-rated films, may be restricted viewing for those who are still considered juveniles.
In theory there are laws that allow juveniles to make a legal case for emancipation from their parents. In practice it is a rare occasion when a court allows teens or juveniles to declare personal independence until they are of working age and financially independent. Rather, the court usually places them in a foster home or under legal guardianship until they reach an age that permits their full rights and freedoms under the law as an adult.
Juvenile Justice: An Overview - Brief overview from the Cornell University Law School including full text of federal and state statues, recent news on juvenile court decisions, and key Web resources to more information.
Juvenile Crime and Issues - About.com guide to the topic with information and statistics on teen runaways and typical juvenile crimes, along with psychological profiles and criminal youth warning signs, related resources.