Differences Between Juvenile and Adult Court


In most places, there are differences in terminology in juvenile court. For example:

Adult

Minor

Bail Hearing
Detention Hearing
Trial
Fact-Finding Hearing
Complaint or Indictment 1
Petition
Defendant
Respondent
Verdict
Adjudication
Guilty
Delinquent or Involved
 
In addition, there are some really big differences in procedure. In a juvenile case, you normally don’t get a jury. Instead, the judge alone decides both whether you’ve broken the law and what your punishment will be. Another difference is that bail is generally not allowed for minors. To get out of custody before adjudication, the minor will have to prove that she’s neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. (You can use the strategies listed in Preparing for a Bail Hearing). Finally, the courtroom is usually closed to the general public (including the media) in a juvenile case.
 
Ironically, for smaller offenses, the consequences for minors may be worse than for adults. Minors tend to be placed on probation for longer periods than adults, and the conditions of their probation are usually more numerous and obnoxious, with additions such as curfews, getting adequate grades, behaving respectfully to parents, etc. 2  On the other hand, minors who are found delinquent in serious cases and incarcerated may be better off, since their sentences will typically end in their early twenties; whereas an adult might get life in prison. 

Sometimes minors are tried in adult court, typically in cases involving very serious crimes such as rape or murder. This usually happens to somewhat older minors, aged thirteen to seventeen. 


1.  The complaint or indictment is the document on which the charges against the defendant are specified.
2.  The policy reason for this is that the courts have more interest in rehabilitating minors than adults, so they like to give themselves plenty fo time and leverage to do it, hence lengthy probation with lots of conditions.