When it comes to dealing with the court system as a juvenile, the experience someone underage will face will most likely be vastly different from that of an adult. From the lack of options in regard to release to the leniency with actual sentencing, these are the ways in which juvenile detainment differs from being tried as an adult.
Jail is the last resort
For first-time offenders who are being taken in for a non-violent crime, chances are law enforcement will either opt to take the juvenile home and put them in the care of a guardian or take them to the station and have a parent pick them up there. Many times official charges will not even be drawn. While this is not always the case, if the crime is relatively minor and no one physically was hurt or exploited, it is often viewed that releasing the juvenile to a parent of guardian is enough. If charges are pursued and they have to go before a judge, the judge will usually opt to be more lenient and look at potentially why the minor may be having issues and put more thought into if there is any past history of abuse or neglect that could be making them more motivated to commit illegal crimes. The goal of the court is to try and keep juveniles from becoming repeat offenders who commit more severe crimes and in turn, can spend years behind bars. That said, however, if the crime is serious enough or there have been repeated offenses, especially in a violent manner, the courts will have no choice but to try as an adult but even then it is on a case-by-case basis and most likely won’t be as severe as an adult offense.
Juveniles don’t have the option of bond
Unlike when an adult gets arrested, minors do not have a bond system set in place for release. When an adult is arrested, after detainment, they would have a bond hearing in which a judge would decide if bail would be granted for the defendant and at what price should the bond be set. With juveniles, however, it’s a little different. As said previously, if the charge is relatively minor, the judge will most likely opt for release to a parent or a guardian or if none is available and the charge is more serious, then they will be held in detainment until the time of their hearing. It is pretty rare for the juvenile to be held in actual jail.
To sum up, when it comes to juveniles, the courts really try to opt for rehabilitation and try to stop damaging behavior before it becomes a consistent problem. For this reason, a lot more understanding and leniency is given to get underage kids on the right path.