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Practice Definitions  | Juvenile Law

Juvenile Law

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Juvenile Law is the area of law that deals with criminal law involving persons not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In most states, the age for criminal culpability is set at 18 years.

Juvenile law is mainly governed by state law and most states have enacted a juvenile code. The main goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation rather than punishment. However, juveniles can be transferred into adult court if the juvenile court waives or relinquishes its jurisdiction.

The federal government has pretty much confined its role of funding state efforts to prevent juvenile delinquency and setting starndards for state laws. Congress passed the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act in 1968, which was later revised and renamed the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act. The purpose of this act is to help states and local communities provide community based preventative services to youths in danger of becoming delinquent, help train people who provide those services and provide technical assistance in the programs.

The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act defines juvenile delinquency (any act that is othewise a crime, but is committed by someone under 18 years of age) and sets forth rules by which state laws must comply with regard to juvenile court procedures and punishments. Juvenile crime is called an act of "delinquency" and requires court intervention to correct the delinquency. These courts are known as juvenile courts and they have their own special rules and procedures. If you are found guilty of a juvenile crime, you may be sent to a reform school or another public institution, placed in a foster home, or returned to your parents and placed on probation or house arrest.
Should I hire a lawyer?
A defendant may retain a juvenile crimes lawyer at any stage of his or her case, whether it is during the investigation or the day before arraignment. You also have the legal right to represent yourself, but it is often a bad idea because you're going against a prosecutor that is well versed with the law. Your best bet is to hire a lawyer that has specific experience defending juveniles. These lawyers understand the juvenile court rules and procedures, which are a lot different than those in the adult court system. Use the State Lawyers Directory to find a juvenile law attorney that best suits your needs and legal situation.
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