Power Law represents both adults and juveniles facing criminal charges. However, the criminal justice system in the United States treats juveniles and adults differently when it comes to criminal charges and convictions. Here are some key differences between juvenile criminal defense and adult criminal defense:

  1. Age of the accused: The most obvious difference is the age of the accused. Juvenile criminal defense involves representing individuals under the age of 18, while adult criminal defense involves representing individuals 18 and over. However, neuroscience is showing us that the adolescent brain does not fully mature until the mid-20s, leading to a push for “extended adolescence” in the criminal justice system. Read a recent Slate article about this movement.

  2. Different legal system: Juvenile cases are handled in the juvenile justice system, which operates separately from the adult criminal justice system (and is technically civil, rather than criminal). The juvenile justice system is designed to be rehabilitative, rather than punitive, and the proceedings are generally less formal than adult criminal proceedings. For example, in the juvenile system, the accused is usually referred to by their first name, while in the adult system the accused is referred to as Mr. or Ms. (or Mx.).

  3. Different access to services: In Colorado, the state legislature has authorized significant funding for services to assist juveniles in achieving rehabilitation. Whether in the pre-trial or probation stage, most evaluations, therapy, mentoring, activities and other items can be provided at no cost to the juvenile. In the adult system, most of these items must be funded by the person themselves.

  4. Different potential consequences: The consequences of a juvenile criminal adjudication can be different from those of an adult conviction. For example, juveniles may not be sentenced to prison and may instead be placed in a juvenile detention center or ordered to complete a rehabilitation program. In addition, juvenile records are often sealed or expunged upon reaching the age of majority, while adult criminal records are public and may have long-term consequences.

  5. Different legal rights: Juveniles have many of the same legal rights as adults in criminal proceedings, such as the right to an attorney and the right to a fair trial. However, there are also some differences in the legal rights of juveniles, such as the right to a trial by jury in certain cases.

  6. Different collateral consequences: Collateral consequences mean the effects of a criminal case outside of the punishment itself (e.g., jail, probation, etc…). In the adult system, the most impactful collateral consequences are often how the conviction will affect a person’s employment, right to possess a gun, and access to housing. In the juvenile system, the collateral consequences of a juvenile adjudication can affect where the juvenile can go to school, applying for college, and whether the child can live and home.

It is important to understand these differences if you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, as the approach to the case and the potential consequences will depend on whether it is handled in the juvenile or adult justice system. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the specific legal issues and options in your case.