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Juvenile or adult?

Are you 10 or older but under the age of 17? If so, under state law, you are a juvenile. When juveniles aged 10 through 16 break the law, they go before a juvenile court judge. If you are 17 or older, you are an adult, subject to the adult justice system. Children under 10 may not be prosecuted for any criminal activity.

The juvenile justice system is based on the belief that juveniles are different from adults, and juveniles who commit crimes generally should be treated differently from adults. Separate courts, detention facilities and laws were created for juveniles with the intent to protect their welfare and rehabilitate them.

But make no mistake about it: the law provides stiff penalties for juveniles who persist in breaking the law. Juveniles may face long sentences for committing serious felonies. This may even include serving time in adult prison.

The law uses different language for juveniles. An adult who commits assault is found guilty of a crime or a criminal act and may be sentenced. A juvenile who commits assault is said to have committed delinquent conduct and is adjudicated.

Sugar coating? Not really. The juvenile justice system is designed to offer young people the chance to recover from their early mistakes. But don't be fooled. Continue the delinquent conduct and getting locked up is a real possibility.

You have probably heard about being tried as a juvenile versus being tried as an adult. Under state law, juveniles as young as 14 may be certified to be tried as an adult. This means youthful offenders may face adult sentencing and adult prison for crimes committed as a juvenile. This usually happens in cases where juveniles commit especially violent or terrible crimes.

Once a juvenile is certified as an adult, he or she will be treated as an adult for any new felonies committed before age 17. However, a juvenile who is certified as an adult cannot receive the death penalty.

Did You Know?
If you are a juvenile (10 or older but under 17), police may detain, handcuff and transport you for any arrestable crime (class B misdemeanor and above).

Federal law defines a juvenile as a person who has not reached his or her 18th birthday. The United States Attorney may prosecute juveniles for committing federal crimes such as illegal possession of a handgun or delivery of illegal narcotics.

What is a minor? This term refers to anyone under 21 years of age when used in context of alcohol beverage issues and under 18 years of age when used in context of tobacco products. If you are under 21, you may not buy, possess or use alcohol. If you are under 18, you cannot buy, possess or use tobacco.

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