Sentencing in Juvenile CourtLeave a Comment
Juvenile courts operate in different, yet similar, ways as adult courts. Courts who designate juveniles as delinquent, or guilty of a crime, may impose a wide range of sentencing options, including incarceration and non-incarceration pathways. If you or a loved one is facing charges in juvenile court, you may be subject to any of the following penalties.
Incarceration Options for Washington Minors
Juvenile courts may order incarceration as a penalty, although juvenile offenders are subject to different incarceration methods than adults. Some of the most common incarceration options for juveniles include the following.
- Juvenile detention: Some juvenile offenders may go to a detention facility for minors, often known as a juvenile hall. This incarceration option is usually only for short-term stays.
- House arrest: Some minors must go on house arrest, and they may only leave their home to attend school, go to work, attend counseling, or other exceptions the court specifies.
- Placement with an alternative family: A judge may place a minor with a different relative, in foster care, or in a group home.
- Long-term juvenile facilities: Some juvenile offenders must go to secure facilities for long periods of time. These sentences can last months, or even years.
- Adult jail: In some situations, a judge may send a juvenile to an adult incarceration facility, such as a county jail.
- Probation: After attending a juvenile detention, a minor may have to go on probation after his or her release. Violation of probation can lead to additional consequences.
- Juvenile and adult jail: In certain situations, a juvenile may begin his or her sentence at a juvenile facility, and transfer to an adult facility once he or she reaches the right age.
Alternatives to Incarceration for Juvenile Offenders
While incarceration is a common sentencing option among juvenile courts, Washington law provides judges with the discretion necessary to create a sentencing plan that fits the situation and needs of the juvenile delinquent. In addition to or instead of incarceration, a judge may assign any of the following non-incarceration options for juvenile offenses.
- Probation: Like with incarceration options, a judge may order a juvenile to undergo probation after finding he or she violated criminal law.
- Community service: Juveniles may need to work a certain number of hours helping their communities.
- Counseling: A juvenile may have some unresolved emotional issues that require counseling, and a judge may order him or her to attend sessions with a trained professional.
- Fines: A juvenile may need to pay a certain amount in fines, either to a victim directly or to the government.
- Warnings: A juvenile may receive a verbal warning from a judge after violating the law. Warnings usually only occur after a first offense.
- Electronic monitoring devices: If a juvenile is on house arrest or cannot leave his or her local area, a judge may order him or her to wear an electronic tracking device on the wrists or ankles.
Probation is usually the most common non-incarceration sentencing option. During probation, a minor cannot engage in certain activities and must report regularly to a probation officer. Penalties for violating probation orders may result in a harsher sentence, such as incarceration.
Can You Appeal a Juvenile Sentencing Order?
Juveniles have the right to appeal or modify a sentencing decision they believe is unjust. However, appealing or modifying a sentence can be difficult alone — minors should consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to understand their options and build a compelling defense in the courtroom.