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Juvenile Crime in PA: How It’s Different from Adult Crime

by | Oct 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Juvenile Law

Juvenile Crime in PA: How It’s Different from Adult Crime

In Pennsylvania, as in many states, the approach to handling juvenile crime stands in stark contrast to adult criminal proceedings. This difference is not just a matter of legal procedure but also of philosophy and intent. For the legal team at Bauer, Scanlon & Wigginton in Media, PA, understanding these distinctions is critical in providing effective representation for young clients in Delaware County.

The Philosophy Behind Juvenile Justice

The juvenile justice system in Delaware County Pennsylvania has its roots in the early 20th century, a period marked by a progressive approach to juvenile delinquency. Unlike the adult criminal justice system, which is primarily punitive, the juvenile system is predicated on the belief in the inherent malleability of youth. This system posits that young offenders can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society more effectively than adults. As such, the juvenile courts focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.

Legal Differences

One of the most striking differences between juvenile and adult criminal proceedings is the language used. In juvenile courts, offenders commit “delinquent acts” rather than “crimes”. This linguistic distinction underscores the system’s rehabilitative intent. Furthermore, juvenile proceedings are typically less formal and more flexible than adult courts, allowing for a more individualized approach to each case.

In Pennsylvania, the age of majority is 18, which generally determines the jurisdiction of juvenile vs. adult court. However, there are exceptions, especially for serious offenses where juveniles can be tried as adults. Additionally, juvenile records are more protected, offering young offenders a chance to move past their mistakes without the burden of a public criminal record.

Sentencing and Rehabilitation

Sentencing in the juvenile system varies significantly from adult courts. While adults might face prison sentences, juveniles are more likely to receive probation, be placed in a rehabilitation program, or be ordered to perform community service. Pennsylvania’s focus on rehabilitation is evident in the availability of various programs aimed at education, skill development, and psychological support.

Juvenile detention centers also differ from adult prisons, emphasizing education and rehabilitation over punishment. The success stories from these centers, where former delinquents have turned their lives around, are testaments to the effectiveness of this approach.

The Role of a Defense Attorney in Juvenile Cases

Specialized legal representation is crucial in navigating the juvenile justice system. At Bauer, Scanlon & Wigginton, attorneys understand the nuances of juvenile law and work tirelessly to ensure that the rights and interests of young clients are protected. They play a pivotal role in negotiating with prosecutors and judges, advocating for rehabilitation over harsher punitive measures, and ensuring that the youth’s voice is heard and considered in all proceedings.

Challenges and Controversies

Despite its intentions, the juvenile justice system in Pennsylvania is not without its challenges. Debates over the appropriate age threshold for juvenile court jurisdiction, particularly in cases of serious offenses, continue to stir controversy. These discussions highlight the delicate balance the system must maintain between protecting public safety and offering young offenders a chance at redemption.  Give us a call for a free consultation.