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Juvenile Delinquency: What Is It And How Is It Different Than A Criminal Case?

Juvenile Delinquency: What Is It And How Is It Different Than A Criminal Case?

In essence, juvenile delinquency is basically the same as a criminal charge for an adult. However, there are some major differences between the two that an engaged citizen should know. Many people would be shocked to know that juveniles do not have all of the same rights as adults when a juvenile is accused of committing a delinquent act. The reasoning behind the lack of certain rights is due to the purpose and nature of juvenile delinquency proceedings as compared to adult criminal proceedings. However, this does not mean that there aren’t major consequences if a juvenile is determined to be a delinquent. In this blog, we provide a brief overview of the basics of juvenile delinquency to highlight the need for a child who is alleged to be delinquent to have skilled counsel.

As mentioned above, delinquent acts and criminal conduct are similar. For example, the relevant statutory code sates that a child will commit a delinquent act if “before he or she is 18 years old, the child commits an act that would be an offense if committed by an adult.”1 This brings us to our first major difference between delinquent acts and criminal conduct is that delinquent acts also entail a much wider scope than criminal conduct. That is, there are certain acts that would be considered delinquent if committed by a child, whereas the same act would not be criminal if committed by an adult. For example, additional statutory code provides that a child commits a delinquent act if the child violates the compulsory school attendance or commits curfew violations.2 Conversely, an adult would not be criminally charged for violating curfew because an adult has no curfew.

Not only is there a difference between what constitutes criminal conduct and delinquent acts, but there are also differences in how the proceedings are conducted. One difference is that juveniles do not typically have the right to request bail. The reasoning, however, is that bail is unnecessary in most circumstances because a juvenile can be released to a parent or guardian. Furthermore, generally speaking, a juvenile doesn’t have the right to a jury trial in juvenile court. The reasoning is that courts have found that using juries may undermine the confidentiality aspect of juvenile proceedings. Additionally, unlike criminal court, juvenile proceedings are not meant to be truly adversarial. That is, juvenile courts are designed more to rehabilitate rather than punish the juvenile.

A juvenile history may impact adult life from obtaining a firearm to employment and the laws are in constant flux on these limits. To avoid testing the limits, juvenile delinquency detention should be treated as an adult arrest. In other words, it may have life-long implications that should be fully explained by defense counsel before making any admission or statement. Obtaining skilled counsel is key in defending against these types of proceedings. This blog post is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who represent juvenile delinquents throughout the State of Indiana, as well as handle delinquency appeals. This blog post is written for general educational purposes. It is not a solicitation for legal services or specific legal advice. It is advertising material.

  1. Ind. Code section 31-37-1-2.
  2. Ind. Code section 31-37-2-2.



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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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