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Even though the percentage of juvenile crime has declined in recent years, it is still one of the most severe problems in the United States, where nearly 60,000 young offenders are detained in juvenile detention centers and prisons on any given day. 

If your child has committed an illegal act, these FAQs about juvenile delinquency and crime may answer some of your most pressing concerns.

What is a juvenile crime?

Juvenile crime or juvenile delinquency refers to illegal acts committed by youth under age 18, which would be considered a criminal act and charged as such if performed by an adult. Juvenile criminal cases are mostly called “delinquency cases,” and criminal acts committed by minors are termed as “offenses.”

A juvenile crime can include a robbery, DUI, rape, murder, or any other offense that an adult can commit. The court punishes individuals charged with these crimes under juvenile law. 

Until what age is an individual considered a juvenile?

According to federal law, all individuals who are 17 or under are considered juveniles. However, some states consider 16 to be the cut-off age, whereas others deem 17 or 18 to be the maximum age limit.

In Virginia, a person is tried as a juvenile if they are under 18 at the time of the offense. In some cases, the supervision of such individuals may continue until they are 21 years old. 

What types of crimes can juveniles get arrested for?

Although youths are more likely to commit certain offenses than others, they are usually involved in almost all types of crime. 

Here are some of the most serious crimes that a law enforcement agency can arrest a juvenile for: 

  • Larceny
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Auto theft
  • Liquor law violations
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Drunk and disorderly conduct
  • Vandalism
  • Drug abuse and possession 
  • Intent to sell drugs
  • Arson
  • Assault
  • Rape
  • Prostitution
  • Homicide

A juvenile may also get in trouble for committing status offenses, which may include:

  • Curfew violations
  • Running away
  • Truancy

What is the Juvenile Justice System?

The Juvenile Justice System handles the cases that involve youth offenders. It was established in 1899 because the reformers believed that juveniles behaved differently from adults when making sensible decisions and understanding the consequences of their actions. They also believed that young offenders had a better chance of changing their behavior patterns than most adults. 

In addition, the Juvenile Justice System also protects youth from the dangers of adult jails, where they were at a higher risk of experiencing violence and committing suicide.

What is the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act?

The United States established the “Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act” in 1974. The act focuses on removing youth offenders from the adult prison system, separating juveniles from adults if they are in the same facility, and deinstitutionalizing status offenders. It also provided support for establishing various prevention programs, such as the Runaway Youth Program.

How is juvenile court different from other courts?

The courts in the juvenile crime system are more informal compared to the courts in the adult criminal system. Most juvenile courts do not conduct jury trials as they have to protect the privacy of the juvenile offenders and their families. 

Moreover, courts like the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (JDRDC) use a different language for juveniles than in the adult criminal justice system. Instead of using the term “found guilty,” the courts use “adjudicated delinquent” for youth offenders. Though the courts protect the victims’ rights and hold the juvenile delinquents accountable for their actions, they also consider services needed for the youth’s rehabilitation.

Can a juvenile case turn into an adult case?

Under certain circumstances, the prosecution can move a case from juvenile court to criminal court and vice versa. 

The juvenile court may move or waive the case to the adult criminal court if the youth has committed an Unclassified or Class A felony, which is the most serious in nature. These felonies include crimes like first-degree assault, sexual assault, and murder, among others. 

What is the difference between being tried as a juvenile and an adult?

Hearing for juvenile cases is usually informal, which is not the case for adult offenders. In case of a formal hearing, the judge will listen to the case in a juvenile or criminal court.

However, it is important to point out that juvenile court proceedings are closed to the public. The juvenile law also guards the privacy of the offenders by keeping their records highly confidential. In some cases, juvenile delinquents may even have their records cleared.

What are the leading causes behind youth getting involved in juvenile crime?

Several research studies have linked substance abuse, discord at home, exposure to pornography and entertainment violence, physical abuse at home, financial trouble, and lack of adult interaction to be the leading causes of juvenile delinquency in the United States. Minors may also feel pressured by their peers to commit offenses such as burglary, robbery, theft, and arson, among others.

Who is responsible for paying a juvenile offender’s court fines?

In most cases, parents have to pay the fines for their children, including court reimbursement, state fines, and victim restitution. However, the youth offender must work to pay off the debt.

Do youths face any significant risks at detention facilities?

Minors may face violence, sexual assault, and strict disciplinary action at juvenile detention facilities and adult prisons alike. Since these facilities are generally overcrowded, their inmate-to-staff ratio is usually high. These factors combined with poorly trained correctional staff may often result in increased tensions within the detention center. 

What to Do if Your Child Commits an Offense

If your child has committed an offense or has been charged with an illegal act, they need proper representation. An experienced attorney will provide your child with the advice and guidance they deserve and ensure that justice is served.

To get help from a legal professional in Fairfax County and learn more about juvenile crime, please feel free to contact us and schedule a complimentary case evaluation.

Areas of Practice

  • Criminal Law
  • Traffic Violations
  • Reckless Driving
  • Felonies and Misdemeanors

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia, 1985
  • District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia, 1985
  • U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, 1985
  • U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims


  • University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, Virginia
    • J.D. - 1985
  • Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • B.A. magna cum laude - 1982
    • Honors: Phi Beta Kappa
    • Major: Economics & Philosophy
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