Juvenile Justice

Juvenile delinquency cases are handled through the Family court, not the regular Criminal Court. This is because the goal is divert a juvenile from following a life of crime. They are at an age where there is still time to prevent them from going down the wrong path and ensure they can lead normal lives as adults. The purposes of our statutes are to (1) preserve the family unit and (2) rehabilitate of the juvenile (rather than incarcerate) whenever possible. So, when a juvenile is arrested, the authorities will decide whether to send the case to the Family court or to the Criminal court. The factors to consider are the nature and circumstances of the offense, the juvenile’s prior record, the degree of injury to another person, the degree of damage to property, and a juvenile’s academic or social needs. (In the recent tragic case in Connecticut where the teen girl was murdered because she refused an invitation to the prom by her classmate, the prosecutor decided to try the classmate as an adult in the Criminal court rather than as a juvenile in the Family court.) The available depositions for juveniles are very expansive, and include fines; mental and emotional health counseling; restitution in the case of property damage; probation; community service; transfer or residential custody to the other parent or guardian; imposing a “no contact” order with regard to the victim or co-defendants; vocational training; imposed curfews; restricted travel or suspension of driving privileges; writing letters of apology; random substance abuse testing; imposition of an ankle bracelet; and “scared straight” tactics such as touring a jail, prison, or juvenile detention center. A court can still order incarceration based on whether the act was committed in a cruel or heinous way; the seriousness of the harm; the character and attitude of the juvenile; the juvenile’s age and prior record; and the need to deter other juveniles. Hopefully, with the proper mixture and balance of these options and more, the best interests of the juvenile and the public welfare will be served and the juvenile will be a contributing member of society.

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