10 Differences Between Adult and Juvenile Criminal Court

The Bruno Law team has extensive experience representing juveniles who have been charged with a crime, ranging from minor traffic matters to serious felonies. Representing juveniles in criminal cases is in many ways different from representing adults.

10 Differences between Adult And Juvenile Criminal Court:

1. Complaint vs. Petition

In adult court the defendant is charged by using a document called a “complaint”, whereas in juvenile court, the child is charged with a document called a “Petition”

2. No Juries

In most jurisdictions, including Minnesota, when juvenile cases go to trial, the child is not afforded a jury trial like in adult court. Rather, one judge is the finder of fact at a trial. While difference makes for shorter trials since the lawyers do not have to spend days picking a jury, the juvenile and his/her lawyer do not get the benefit of multiple finders of fact. The child is still considered innocent until proven guilty, the prosecutor only has to convince one person of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, verses an entire jury.

3. Conviction vs. Adjudicated Delinquent

In adult court if the defendant is found guilty, they are “convicted”, whereas in juvenile court the child is “adjudicated delinquent”.

4. Sentence vs. Disposition

After a defendant is found guilty in a criminal case he/she will have a sentencing to determine punishment, whereas in juvenile court there is a “disposition” to determine what should happen to the juvenile.

5. Where the “Disposition” is held

In adult court the defendant has all of his/her hearings in the county in which they have been charged, which is generally the county in which the offense took place. In juvenile cases, the case is charged in the county where the offense took place and that is where the case will be tried or a plea of guilty will be entered. However, if the child resides in a different county then the “disposition” of the case is generally moved to the county of residence.

6. Rehabilitation vs. Punishment

The system in juvenile court is much more focused on the best interests of the child, and trying to make sure they are rehabilitated prior to becoming an adult. There is much more emphasis on treatment, therapy, and education rather than just punishment.

7. More options to prevent “Adjudication”

In adult court there are certain legal concepts that typically only a prosecutor can offer, for example a continuance for dismissal or a stay of adjudication. Both of these legal concepts allows for the person charged with a crime from being convicted of the crime. These are very rare outcomes of cases wherein the prosecutor must agree, and the judge cannot do over the objection of the prosecutor, except in exceptional cases. However, in juvenile court the judge can dispose of a case in either of these ways, even if the prosecutor doesn’t agree.

8. Open vs. Closed Hearings

In adult court, all hearings are open to the public. However, juvenile court hearings are closed to the public and typically, only the lawyers, probation, the child and family are present in the courtroom

9. All in the Family

While the client in a juvenile matter is the child, these types of cases generally involve the entire family. Your criminal defense lawyer should be aware that when handling juvenile cases there is more than just the client to interact with. It is important to involve the parents or guardians to help the child follow through on the lawyer's advice. For example, in a drug case the lawyer might recommend a chemical assessment be performed, yet the child might not be able to schedule and attend the necessary meetings without the help of a parent or guardian.

10. Expungements

Minnesota Statute section 260B.198, subd. 6 provides that a juvenile may apply for an expungement “at any time”, whereas in adult court there are many restrictions on how soon one can file for an expungement. As you can see, handling a juvenile criminal case is much different than an adult criminal case. Many criminal defense attorneys seldom handle juvenile cases, and handle them like an adult case, which can be a detriment to the juvenile.

If you or your child is charged with a juvenile crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who is also experienced in juvenile court.

Contact the Bruno Law Team

The Bruno Law team has extensive experience in both adult and juvenile criminal law. The Bruno Law firm is founded on the concept of the importance of family. All of us are parents and will handle your child’s case the way we would want our child represented, with compassion, skill, creativity, and a focus on the best interest of the child.

We are passionate about working with children and their families, take pride in helping the child get past their current legal troubles, and getting them on the right track to becoming a responsible adult. Contact us at Bruno Law for more information about defending a juvenile criminal case.

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