Any person under the age of 18 years is a juvenile in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Juveniles, however, are subject to the same criminal statutes as adults. That is to say, the provision of law that makes it illegal for an adult to shoplift also applies to juvenile shoplifters. However, the General Assembly has created a separate court and system of justice for juvenile offenders. If you, or your child, is charged with an act of delinquency, meaning charged with committing an offense that would be a crime if committed by an adult, the case will be adjudicated in the juvenile and domestic relations district court having jurisdiction over the county or city where the juvenile resides or where the offense occurred. Contact George Freeman today if you or a juvenile you love has an issue; Mr. Freeman is a seasoned Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney (juvenile justice lawyer) and understands how the system operates.
The primary purpose of the juvenile court is remediation, rehabilitation, and placing the interest of the juvenile at the front of the line. This means that the juvenile justice system has much less a focus on punishment as compared to the adult criminal justice system. This does not mean that consequences do not result from juvenile adjudications of delinquency. Juveniles who commit acts of delinquency (crimes) can be sent to the juvenile detention center (analogous to jail) and for serious offenses they can be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice (analogous to prison). In addition, once the juvenile court attains jurisdiction over a juvenile, that jurisdiction can continue until the juvenile is 21 years of age. This means the court can place the juvenile under its supervision through probation and other services and programs available in the community.
Misdemeanors do not stay on a juvenile's permanent criminal record; they self-expunge typically by the age of 23 years. Those records, however, are sealed from public review. Felony adjudications of delinquency are permanent; they stay on the juvenile's record and will be reflected on an adult record once the juvenile turns 18 years of age. More importantly, the Commonwealth's Attorney has the ability to certify a juvenile for felony offenses. The procedure and defenses to that action depend on the nature of the charge and how the Commonwealth files its notice. If certification is granted and the juvenile is certified as an adult, he will be prosecuted as if he were an adult for that offense and any future offense he may commit as a juvenile. This means he could receive an adult prison sentence if the matter is sufficiently egregious.
Most juvenile delinquency cases involve minor offenses that result in community service, taking a course related to the type of offense charged, and, if needed, counseling - all of which are ordered and supervised by the Court. Many times a charge against a juvenile will be dismissed if he successfully complies with the court's order. But, as is always the case, every fact pattern is different and every outcome is unique. Understanding the process and potential outcomes is critical particularly when a young person has his or her eyes set on going to college, entering the military, or seeking a skilled, professional license.
Contact us today if you have an issue involving juvenile delinquency in Fairfax County or greater Northern Virginia. A juvenile justice attorney with extensive experience and practice before the juvenile court can make all the difference navigating the potential outcomes facing a child who has been accused of criminal conduct. George Freeman is an experienced Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer (juvenile justice attorney) ready to assist a child who is facing the consequences of a juvenile prosecution.