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.