Minors can go to trial when charged with a crime, but the juvenile court system is different from what adults will experience. It can actually be worse for a growing child who is scared and unsure of what is happening so it’s best to prepare early for what you might need to expect. This process can make trial as a minor a major ordeal.
The Process Can Be Humiliating and Stressful
Going to trial can be a humiliating process. Although not likely to face a jury, the opposing attorneys and the judge are likely to do everything possible to paint the minor as a bad person. The judge might even be very harsh on minors in the courtroom. This type of process can leave a juvenile feeling alone, helpless, and stressed until the trial ends.
Juveniles Can Be Detained until Trial
Something to consider is minors can be detained until trial. The juvenile might have to spend time in a detention center until the trial date. This action can be ordered in the middle of trial if necessary, and some jurisdictions actually place minors in the same facilities as adult criminals and felons for federal crimes. Detention can be a very traumatic experience and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Potential Penalties Can Be Harsh
The ruling at a trial could come much faster than expected, and the potential penalties imposed can be harsh. Punishments might include time in a detention center, extensive community service, probation, or forced participation in a diversion program for something like driving while under the influence, or a DWI.
There Could Be Collateral Consequences
It is important to remember there could be collateral consequence for minors found guilty of DWI, drug possession, or violent crimes. Those consequences can include denial of federal benefits, denial of federal student loans, and problems finding employment before the records are sealed. Not all juvenile records are sealed in every jurisdiction as well.
Juvenile Court Is Hard On Families
A final point to consider is how going to trial as a minor can affect family life. The family might feel conflicted or could be anxious about the outcome of the case, and a trial can create rifts between family members.
Juvenile court is incredibly serious. It can change the life of a minor forever and the negative consequences can even seep into adulthood. It is always best to avoid going to trial as a minor by negotiating a plea deal or by avoiding criminal activity completely.
This article is from Brooke Chaplan, a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.