There’s a common cultural belief that children and teenagers who are convicted of crimes are often given lighter punishments than adults accused of similar offenses. After all, the focus of the juvenile justice system is supposed to be rehabilitating youthful offenders instead of just punishing them.
While there may be some anecdote to support this idea, in reality, youthful offenders often feel the full force of the criminal justice system. Some of them, particularly those with a prior criminal record or who are accused of violent crimes, could be charged and tried as adults. In these cases, the defendant faces real punishment, even life in prison, for crimes committed as a child.
Juvenile court has a focus on rehabilitation
The state of Indiana has embraced a restorative justice approach to youthful offenders, meaning that the focus is on helping them accept responsibility for their actions, take steps to repairing the harm caused by their criminal action(s), and rebuilding their relationship with the community as a whole. For many, this can involve a combination of community service and therapy, in combination with detention at a juvenile facility.
The hope is that by encouraging young offenders to make amends for their crimes, they will see the real world impact of their actions and understand why what they did was unacceptable.
Even juvenile court has real world repercussions
Some people believe that as long as a case is being handled in juvenile court, the defendant will do just fine working with a public defender. In reality, public defenders are over worked and probably don’t have expertise and experience in the exact criminal law area where the juvenile defendant is facing charges.
As a result, they may fail to present a complete and rigorous defense of their client, instead pressuring the individual to accept a plea deal. They may not follow the necessary procedure to ensure their client’s record is sealed or expunged, following the completion of their sentence, which could have lifelong repercussions for their client.
An experienced defense attorney can help minimize the fallout
Criminal defense attorneys can improve the outcome of juvenile criminal charges for their clients. Ways they may help include:
- Requesting diversion to mental health services or substance abuse services in lieu of criminal court proceedings
- Advocating for their clients after they have completed sentences by helping to have their records sealed or expunged
If your child has been accused of or charged with a criminal defense, don’t gamble with his or her future by just hoping for the best. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands Indiana’s juvenile justice system or the process of juvenile offenders being charged as adults. This professional will advocate for your child at every step of the process!