What is a Juvenile?
In law, a juvenile is an individual under the age of majority. In the United States, the age will depend on the particular jurisdiction and application, but is typically 18 in most places—the federal government declares that the official age of majority is 18; however, a state may implement a different age, which may supersede the federal level. Furthermore the context may alter the term of a juvenile; for instance, in the United States the legal drinking age is 21, therefore implying that anyone below this age is a minor or juvenile.
In Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas, a juvenile is legally defined as any individual under the age of 17. In the majority of other states, a juvenile will be legally regarded as any individual under the age of 18.
The distinction between a juvenile and an adult is met with numerous differences in regards to prosecution efforts. Under the label of juvenile, any individual charged with a crime or infraction--who is under the age of majority--will be tried in a juvenile court. This specialized court system is attached with a number of unique provisions. For example, in some jurisdictions, a parent or guardian of the minor must be present during police questioning. In a juvenile court, the penalties for conviction will not include adult incarceration—juveniles convicted of petty crimes will be sent to juvenile hall or put on probation. That being said, if the minor is accused of committing a serious crime, such as a violent crime, the individual may be charged as an adult. In this situation, the individual will be susceptible to the same punishments as an adult who is convicted of the same crime.
In the majority of states in the U.S., a juvenile cannot be incarcerated with an adult population. Furthermore, the death penalty in the United States for those individuals who committed crimes while under the age of 18 was formally discontinued by the United States Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons in 2005.
The primary focus of a juvenile court system is to rehabilitate, as oppose to punish. Typically, all parties involved in the prosecution of a juvenile will work together to form a structured rehabilitation strategy. A juvenile court attorney and juvenile corrections department will collaborate with the presiding judge, the defense juvenile law attorney and the probation department to formulate a strategy to reeducate the juvenile offender. These efforts will typically yield added assistance, including drug rehabilitation, anger management and access to counseling programs.
What does "Juvenile" mean?
The term juvenile is used to describe an individual, in the eyes of the law, to be under a certain age. Juvenile law more specifically, deals within individuals who are under the age of majority, which is the barrier that legally demarcates childhood from adulthood.
The age of majority depends upon the particular jurisdiction’s definition and application where the minor lives or commits a crime; that being said, the typical age of majority is 16, 18 or 21, with 18 being the most common age.
The general concept of a juvenile is not sharply defined in the majority of jurisdictions throughout the United States and throughout the world. More specifically, the ages of consent and criminal responsibility, the age at which legally binding contracts can be entered into and the age at which attendance at school ceases to be mandatory may all fluctuate based on location.
For example, in Japan and South Korea, a juvenile is said to be any individual under the age of 20 years old, while based on juvenile law in New Zealand, the majority of rights of adulthood are assumed at lower ages.
Juvenile law in the United States:
In the United States, juvenile law and more specifically the precise age of majority is set by the individual states. A minor in the United States typically refers to someone under the age of 18, but may be used in certain areas (for example gun ownership, the consumption of alcohol and gambling) to define someone under the age of 21.
Furthermore, in the criminal justice system, a “minor” is not entirely consistent, for a minor may be tried and punished for a crime either as a juvenile or for more extreme felonies, such as murder, as an adult.
As of 1995, a minor in the United States, is legally defined as an individual under the age of 18. This age, however, in the context of some activities, such as the consumption of alcohol, will define an individual under the age of 21 as a minor.
Furthermore, not all minors in the United States are considered juveniles in regards to criminal responsibility. As stated before, if an individual under the age of 18 commits a serious crime he or she may be charged as an adult given the particular state’s ruling.
In eleven states, including Texas, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina and Louisiana, a juvenile is legally defined as an individual under the age of seventeen. In two states, North Carolina and New York, a juvenile refers to any person under the age of sixteen. In all other states in the U.S., a juvenile is legally defined as a person under the age of eighteen.
In the United States, all those considered juveniles are typically tried in juvenile court; this system does not deliver imprisonment as a verdict and may provide special protections for the minor. For instance, in some states, a guardian or parent is required to be present during police questioning and the individual’s name(s) may be kept anonymous when accused of a crime.