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How do juvenile and adult trials differ?

In many cases in which an individual considered a juvenile has been accused of delinquent acts, the decisions regarding how his or her legal proceedings will move forward fall to the parents of the individual. Therefore, as a parent, you will likely want to better understand how your child's case may differ from that of an adult legal trial. Additionally, you may want assistance when it comes to defending your child against accusations.

Juvenile classification

In most states, an individual between the ages of 10 and 18 falls under the juvenile classification. However, there are areas that may cap that age at 16 rather than 18. Additionally, some young individuals could face adult classification if the details of their alleged acts indicate that the situation suits an adult trial.

Adjudication hearings

Rather than going to trial, juvenile cases go through adjudication hearings. These proceedings do not involve juries and, instead, judges hear them because juveniles do not have the right to a trial by jury. Though juveniles do not have certain rights that adults do, they do receive certain protections under the law. For example, their court and criminal records are often sealed so that any juvenile indiscretions do not follow them into adulthood unnecessarily.

Record expungement

In addition to sealed records, expungement could also occur once your child turns 18. Expungement means that the records are erased, but, in many cases, the juvenile will need to meet certain stipulations that may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and court.

Judge rulings

Because there is no jury involved in adjudication hearings, the judge on the case determines the guilt or innocence of the individual. Unlike adult trials, certain juvenile law guidelines exist to which the judge must adhere when it comes to sentencing. Because it stands in your child's best interest to move on from delinquent acts in a productive manner, most sentencing for juvenile cases pertains to rehabilitation efforts rather than strict punishment.

Juvenile defense

Of course, the best outcome of your child's juvenile case would likely be a clearing of all charges. Even as a juvenile, your child retains the right to an attorney, and you may wish to utilize such help in order for your child to have the opportunity to present a meaningful juvenile defense. Experienced California defense attorneys could help you and your child navigate an adjudication hearing and work in your child's best interests in hopes of obtaining the desired outcome.