Children are not considered adults until they reach 18 years of age. But what happens if a child, under the age of 18, commits a crime? Can they be charged and prosecuted as if they were an adult, or will the criminal justice system treat them as a juvenile who will be prosecuted in Juvenile Court?
Why Does It Matter?
Juveniles, that are prosecuted in Juvenile Court, are treated much less harshly than adults who are charged with the same crime in Adult Court. For one thing, it is much less likely that the juvenile will be confined in jail. Incarceration for juveniles is reserved for the most serious cases and the most violent and most chronic juvenile offenders. The main focus of Juvenile Court is to rehabilitate the juveniles. Rehabilitation, is just part of the focus in Adult Criminal Court. Adults are prosecuted and punished in Criminal Court so that the public can be protected, a message can be sent to the public, the defendant can be punished, and the defendant can be rehabilitated. Since rehabilitation is just part of the focus in Adult Criminal Court, it is much more likely that a juvenile will be incarcerated if they are prosecuted in Adult Criminal Court. Since the main focus of Juvenile Court is to rehabilitate juveniles, judges have greater flexibility to craft sentences that are less harsh than the sentences that you usually see in an adult criminal case.