Many teenagers in Virginia get into trouble from time to time. After all, making mistakes is part of growing up, and teenagers may not have the maturity to understand the consequences of their actions. Sometimes a poor decision doesn’t break the law and it is up to the teenager’s parents to punish the child. However, other times a teenager may be accused of committing a very serious crime and may be facing the prospect of criminal proceedings.
Under Virginia state law, juveniles who are age 14 and older when an alleged crime took place may be tried as an adult, depending on the type of crime reportedly committed and other circumstances. It is important to understand how being tried as a juvenile differs from being tried as an adult. This is because the two processes provide the juvenile with different protections.
If a juvenile is tried as a juvenile, unless the alleged crime was a felony, then the records of the crimes the juvenile was charged with and the adjudication of delinquency will be kept confidential. This means the public cannot access this information. Also, misdemeanor adjudications will be expunged once the juvenile reaches age 18. In addition, in the juvenile system, the focus is on treatment and education, rather than simply being punitive in nature. Thus, juveniles who are deemed delinquent will stay in the juvenile system, and a judge is able to decide what consequences to impose during sentencing.
If a juvenile is tried as an adult, then his or her criminal record will be part of the public record. Also, this record cannot be expunged once the juvenile is 18-years-old. In addition, judges in circuit court often must impose a mandatory minimum sentence, rather than having the discretion to penalize the juvenile in another manner. However, even if the juvenile is tried as an adult, judges in circuit court do have the ability to commit the juvenile to the juvenile system, if appropriate.
Sometimes, what started as a youthful indiscretion leads to very serious criminal accusations. Teenagers have their whole lives in front of them, so the manner that they are tried for criminal offenses is very important, as it could affect their entire future. When a juvenile is tried as an adult, it can lead to a very different outcome than if they were tried as a juvenile. Criminal defense attorneys can help explain the circumstances in which a juvenile will be tried in circuit court rather than through the juvenile system.