The goal of juvenile court, unlike adult court, is to help the accused. The does not mean, however, that being “found delinquent” in juvenile court does not have potential consequences for a child down the road. If the offense is serious and the child is over the age of 14 there is the potential that the State Attorney will “direct file” on the child. This means taking the child directly to adult court. If this is done, the child faces the same potential penalties, even prison, as if they were an adult. It is important that an attorney handling a case with these potential consequences discuss options with the child and State Attorney.
Even if the case remains in juvenile court there are serious potential penalties. The Department of Juvenile Justice works with the State in determining what penalties a child faces if convicted. Even simple probation often carries more restrictions than its adult counterpart- curfews and restricted friend lists are the norm. For more serious offenders or repeat offenders there are more stringent probation supervisions such as SHOCAP. Finally, the most serious offenders not transferred to adult court can be sent off to a program and spend months away from home. On the other end of the spectrum, there are diversionary programs such as Teen Court available to some first time offenders. If the child completes these programs the State Attorney takes no action on the case and the child can ultimately have the records destroyed if he/she doesn’t get into any more trouble.
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