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Basic terms you should know for a juvenile justice case


Children, teens and their parents who are involved in the juvenile justice system usually have to learn how to navigate an unfamiliar system as a child’s case goes through the court process. Becoming familiar with some of the basic terms used in the juvenile justice system can help to make the process a little less stressful.

A juvenile is a person who is under 18 years old. In the juvenile justice system, a juvenile is charged with an offense instead of a with a crime. The juvenile is taken into custody instead of being arrested like in the adult criminal justice system.

A petition might be filed regarding the juvenile, which is the equivalent of filing charges in the adult criminal justice system. The case might also be diverted, which means that the case isn’t going to lead to a petition but that another course of action was chosen.

The juvenile might then have an adjudicatory hearing, which is like a trial. If the juvenile is found delinquent, which is the equivalent of being found guilty, the case moves to disposition. The disposition is the same as sentencing in the adult court.

The disposition in the juvenile justice system might include detention and aftercare. Detention is the equivalent of jail, while aftercare is like parole.

Seeking out answers to your questions about a juvenile justice case might help you feel more comfortable with the process. If your child is facing a juvenile justice case, you should work to understand the options that are available from the beginning of the case through the final stage.

Source: Office of the Attorney General, “Introduction to Juvenile Justice in Virginia,” accessed Sep. 27, 2015

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