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Sentencing limitations in juvenile court

| Apr 30, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Juvenile court is different from adult criminal court. The goals, proceedings and even language are distinctive. For example, proceedings for minors are usually termed hearings, not trials. The crimes they are accused of are called delinquent acts in that setting. Texas parents should understand the rights of juveniles in courts and the limitations on their sentences.

Sentencing for juvenile crimes

The justice system approaches juvenile crimes from a different angle when compared to adults. In the juvenile system, the goal is rehabilitation more than punishment. The Supreme Court has reinforced this.

For example, capital punishment has been ruled unconstitutional if the offender was a minor at the time they committed the crime in question. Sentences of life without parole have been ruled unconstitutional for juveniles, too, except in the case of murder. As young people are still developing, the goal is to redirect them, not separate them from society.

In many cases, juvenile offenders don’t receive custodial sentences at all. They may be referred to diversion programs or counseling. In some cases, however, it’s possible the young person might be sentenced to time in an institution. There are states that have mandatory minimum sentences on the books, even for juveniles. Mandatory sentences for juveniles are controversial because they do not take mitigating factors into account.

The legal system sees juveniles as more malleable and able to be reformed. If your child has been accused of a crime, it’s important to retain an experienced lawyer. Someone with experience in the juvenile system may have skills and knowledge the average lawyer does not.