In Pennsylvania and throughout the country, facing criminal charges in court can lead to stiff penalties, including substantial fines or, perhaps, jail time. When police make an arrest, however, the person taken into custody is not always an adult. Many criminal cases involve minors, which is why it is important for parents and teens to understand the juvenile justice system and how it differs from adult criminal court.
If investigators seek to question a minor, his or her parents have a right to be present. This does not mean that police cannot question a juvenile without a parent in the room; it only means that a parent is allowed to be in the room if he or she wishes to be present. Like an adult, a juvenile may invoke the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and has the right to retain an attorney.
Juveniles face hearings, while adults go to trial
If a minor is facing charges in Pennsylvania, there may be a hearing rather than a trial that would take place if the same person were 18 or older. In rare cases, it is possible for a minor to be charged as an adult. If a juvenile hearing results in the charges being proved, the accused party is ruled “delinquent” rather than “guilty.”
Sentencing is less standardized in the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system than it is in adult courts. This is because the court considers additional factors in a juvenile case, such as the teenager’s home life, education and social experiences when determining a just consequence for delinquent behavior. If an arrest takes place, it is best to secure legal support from an attorney who is experienced in juvenile criminal defense.