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Juvenile Offenses

In Pennsylvania, the “Juvenile Justice System” works very differently than the criminal justice system for adults. While juvenile offenses are quite serious and carry potentially harsh consequences if anyone under the age of 18 is charged with a crime, they are not usually tried as adults unless the charges are severe.

In many cases, rather than facing fines and jail time, juvenile defendants will face community service, mental health programs, drug and alcohol programs, counseling or rehabilitation. In some cases, those convicted of juvenile offenses will be placed in group homes, detention centers, GPS monitoring programs, or other supervised probation. Defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can help your family navigate the juvenile justice system in Philadelphia, and help avoid these penalties.

The Juvenile Justice System in Pennsylvania is Complicated to Navigate Alone

Pennsylvania’s criminal law does not always extend to juveniles. This means that children often cannot be convicted of crimes and sentenced the same way that adults would be. In order for some types of consequences to be assigned, the government must demonstrate certain things to a juvenile court judge.

After a teen’s initial arrest, or after failing to meet a requirement, your teen may be sent to juvenile detention facilities. These are similar to jails, but only house people involved in the juvenile justice system. Your child cannot legally stay imprisoned in this system without periodic hearings, and must be released if there is no further, demonstrable need to keep them there. Lauren Wimmer can help make sure your child isn’t unfairly kept in detention.

The juvenile justice system can only preside over children when the court finds that the child has a need for:

  • Treatment,
  • Rehabilitation, or
  • Supervision.

When a child commits a crime, it may not be part of a history of violent, criminal, or delinquent activity. In these situations, there is a lot an experienced Philadelphia juvenile offenses attorney can do.  Your child might not need the juvenile justice system and your attorney can help demonstrate that to a judge. Good grades, after-school jobs, strong friendships, or evidence of parental supervision can help a court understand that the child does not need treatment, rehabilitation, or supervision.

In other cases, the court may find that the child does need all or any of these three things. In those cases, the juvenile court will hold a hearing called an “adjudication hearing.” Rather than finding the juvenile “guilty,” the court uses the term “adjudicated delinquent.” The entire hearing, though, uses the same rules of procedure and evidence that a normal criminal trial would. Therefore, a defense attorney can help you understand the process and help defend your child against adjudication.

After a child is adjudicated delinquent, they may be placed on juvenile probation. This is similar to adult probation, but juvenile probation officers often become very involved in your child’s case. They are responsible for supervision, check-ins, drug tests, and reporting any changes in your child’s completion of required programs. The probation will also include terms of community service, restitution to be paid to victims, and other requirements the juvenile must meet.

Once the juvenile court system has done everything it can with rehabilitation, counseling, community service, and other programs, they will release your child. This means that the juvenile court is satisfied that the child no longer needs treatment, rehabilitation, or supervision.

In order to ensure the juvenile justice system works correctly and avoid unfair punishment, it is important that you hire an attorney who can help you and your child navigate the system. Lauren Wimmer can advocate for your child’s rights – as well as your rights as a parent.

Certification Hearings – Being Tried as an Adult vs. a Juvenile

Because the juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment, many see “being tried as a juvenile” as a good thing, and “being tried as an adult” as a bad thing. This may be true sometimes.

Sometimes, the government may decide that juvenile offenses are severe enough and the defendant is old enough that they should be tried as an adult. This requires the prosecution to get the teenaged defendant “certified” as an adult. A “certification hearing” is when the government offers proof that the defendant was old enough and mature enough to appreciate the effects of their crime and that the government should treat them as an adult.

A “decertification hearing” is the opposite. This is a hearing requesting that an adult around 18 years old should be tried as a minor because of developmental or mental issues.

These hearings are complicated points of law and focus on theories of punishment, government, mental health treatment, and human development.  It won’t cost you anything to contact Lauren Wimmer for a free consultation at 215-712-1212 to discuss the specific circumstances surrounding the case and all we can do to help.

Juvenile Defense Attorney Lauren Wimmer Can Help Your Family

When your child is charged with a crime, do not leave their fate to the public defender assigned to their case. Instead, hire an attorney who can work with you personally and help you understand the issues you and your child face.