Prosecution of Juveniles as Adults

What can happen if a juvenile is tried as an adult? There are significant differences on the impact of going through the criminal justice system as a juvenile and going through as an adult. In the traditional juvenile system, a juvenile is given additional protections because of their youth. First, issues related to the charge and conviction of a crime may be confidential and therefore may not be available to the public. Second, the juvenile's criminal record is erased, following a period of time, when the juvenile becomes an adult. Third, a juvenile who is convicted remains in the juvenile system where a judge has a lot of freedom to determine the punishment/consequence to be imposed. In the juvenile system the emphasis is on treatment and education. In contrast, if a juvenile is prosecuted as an adult (1) the issues and information related to the charge and the conviction of a crime are part of the public record; (2) the information is part of an adult criminal record and is therefore never erased when the juvenile becomes an adult; and (3) the juvenile is subject to the sentencing guidelines which are imposed in the state system. These guidelines provide for minimum sentencing requirements and do not provide the judge with freedom in imposing a punishment; however, the circuit court judge does have the discretionary power to commit the juvenile to the juvenile system even if prosecuted as an adult.

What happens when an adult is sentenced for a crime they committed as a juvenile? The juvenile court may impose an adult‑type penalty up to a maximum of 12 months in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500. Consequently, any juvenile who is tried as a juvenile but is 18 years of age or older at sentencing may receive an adult penalty for a conviction as a juvenile. (Section 16.1‑284 of the Code of Virginia).