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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE JUVENILE AND ADULT JUSTICE SYSTEM IN VIRGINIA

Posted by John A. Kassabian | Nov 30, 2021

If your child has been accused of an offense in the state of Virginia, you may feel overwhelmed and afraid of what lies ahead. Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C., of Fairfax, VA, has worked to defend juvenile offenders for decades and can help guide you through the process of an adjudicatory hearing. Contact John Kassabian for a free consultation.

JUVENILE AND ADULT JUSTICE NOT TREATED THE SAME

While it is important for juveniles to be educated and held accountable for their actions if they break the law, Virginia's juvenile justice system treats offenders differently than it does adults. In many cases, being held accountable means going through rehabilitation or education programs that steer offenders to make different choices as they go forward in life.  

Juveniles must follow the laws the same as any adult, but there are additional offenses with which a juvenile may be petitioned, such as violating city or county curfew, truancy (skipping school), underage possession and consumption of alcohol, and underage possession or use of tobacco products. When a juvenile commits an act that would not be an offense if the same action were committed by an adult, that is called a “status offense.”

A juvenile may also be found “in need of supervision” or “in need of services” if they are petitioned with truancy, run away from home, if their conduct could bring serious harm to themselves or others, or if their conduct is beyond the  control of parents or a guardian. 

The public cannot access juvenile proceedings and court records, and a juvenile misdemeanor gets expunged from the offender's record either five years after the offense is committed or after they turn 19 (whichever comes later). If you want a juvenile record expunged before that time frame, you will have to petition the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for an expungement hearing. Traffic findings remain on record until age 29. Felony convictions stay on a juvenile's criminal record throughout their lives.

POTENTIAL OFFENSES AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES

In some cases, juveniles are required to make restitution toward the victims of their offenses or are placed on probation. Depending on the offense, a juvenile may serve community service hours, be forced to pay a fine, be ordered to enroll and complete anger management, education or treatment programs, or to complete a driver improvement seminar.  

Even though juveniles in Virginia will likely not be sentenced to significant jail time or face extreme punitive consequences if they are taken into custody, being charged and petitioned for an offense is still very serious and may have life-long consequences. And it is possible for a juvenile the age of 14 or older to be tried as an adult if they have committed a felony.

Other consequences include the juvenile's school being notified of the offense or driver's license suspension (if the offense involves driving under the influence or possession of substances). Juveniles may also be held in detention centers while awaiting an adjudicatory hearing or in a juvenile correctional center after disposition, for example.

As with any violation of law, the penalties vary. The major difference between juvenile and adult consequences is the focus on rehabilitation for juveniles versus punishment for adults.

ELIMINATE CONFUSION AND GET GOOD ADVICE

Having a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer provide legal advice can help juvenile offenders, their parents and guardians understand and navigate the process for better results. Even if the consequences are less serious for juvenile offenders, they still can make a significant impact on their lives and futures.

A juvenile criminal defense attorney in Prince William County or Fairfax County, such as John Kassabian, can work with your family to build a robust defense to increase the likelihood of a good outcome. Contact John for a free Virginia juvenile defense consultation.

About the Author

John A. Kassabian

John A. Kassabian joined the family firm in 2002 after having served as a Prosecutor in Fairfax County and Prince William County. Specializing in criminal defense, traffic defense and civil related matters, John has an extensive criminal law background and has handled a wide variety of cases for ...

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