An Introduction to Federal Juvenile Crimes
If a defendant accused of violating a federal criminal law is under the age of 18 years old, he is charged with violating the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act and is typically not treated as an adult for purposes of prosecution and sentencing. It is important to ensure that if a juvenile has been charged with a crime that he is not tried as an adult unnecessarily because the penalties and future consequences for a juvenile convicted of a federal crime are much more limited in scope than for an adult defendant. There may also be opportunities to have portions of a minor defendant’s criminal record sealed or expunged at the resolution of the federal criminal case. An experienced juvenile crimes attorney can help with this.
While the state court system is the primary authority on prosecuting federal crimes against juvenile offenders, the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act allows for prosecution of a minor defendant at the federal level if certain conditions are met. The federal government tends to allow states to prosecute juvenile offenders whenever possible. In order for a juvenile offender to be prosecuted in federal court, the following must be true:
- The state must decline to prosecute the minor defendant;
- The state must not have adequate resources to prosecute and sentence the minor defendant; or
- The underlying criminal charges against the minor defendant involve a violent felony or a drug trafficking offense.
There is the potential for a juvenile offender to be treated as an adult if the crime at issue involves violence or drug trafficking, and the defendant must have been at least 15 years old at the time of the commission of the crime. If the defendant employed a firearm in the commission of the crime, he only has to be at least 13 years old to be treated as an adult. The other way that a minor could be treated as an adult defendant is if he already has a record of committing violent felonies. If the defendant committed the crime when he was under 18 years old but was not indicted for the crime until he was at least 21 years old, then he no longer falls under the scope of the Juvenile Delinquency Act and will be treated the same as an adult in the criminal justice system. If the juvenile requests that the court treat him as an adult, he is able to be considered an adult for purposes of the trial. This tends to be a bad idea because it increases criminal liability. An experienced juvenile crimes lawyer can advise about such matters.
If the offender is tried as a juvenile, he will not face the same criminal procedure that an adult offender would in federal district court. Although the offender will be given a trial, he is not entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers. He will also not face the same process of having an indictment and grand jury that an adult defendant could find himself experiencing. All other aspects of a federal criminal trial involving a juvenile defendant remain the same as those of a criminal trial for an adult defendant.
Criminal Liability: What Sentences are Available?
If your loved one in under investigation, or has been charged with, a violation of the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act, you need to hire an experienced juvenile crimes lawyer to mount an effective defense. If a juvenile is convicted of a crime pursuant to the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act, he may not be sentenced to any longer prison term than what an adult could receive for the same underlying crime. The convicted juvenile could be transferred to the Attorney General for detention if he is sentenced to serve time in federal prison. He may also be ordered to pay fines or restitution.