Juvenile court is unique and should not be treated as if it were adult court for young clients. While the substantive criminal law is the same in juvenile and adult court, the procedures and sentencing law are substantially different. The consequences of a misstep by an attorney inexperienced in juvenile matters can be devastating. For example, contrary to what many parents believe, a juvenile conviction is not removed from a child’s record when he or she turns 18.
Despite the rehabilitative focus of juvenile court, juvenile convictions are counted as criminal history in future cases. They also remain on state criminal records databases and may affect a young person’s ability to enter college; obtain employment, financial aid, a driver’s license; or join the military. Additionally, juvenile convictions can result in commitment to a juvenile detention facility or institution for periods ranging from days to months and even years.Worse, in some cases, a child may end up being prosecuted in adult court where the punishment is even more severe.