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Can a Juvenile Offender Go to Prison?

A juvenile offender is a minor who has commited a crime. These young offenders face different consequences than adults for the same crime. Juvenile court may be more lenient, but it also may be stricter than criminal courts. Usually, juvenile offenders will not face the jail time that they would as an adult for their crime.

Juvenile court handles civil, not criminal, petitions, and if a minor has been found guilty of a crime, they are subject to the court’s jurisdiction. It is at the court’s discretion to sentence the minor to formal or informal probation, placement in foster care, enrollment in a juvenile offender school, or commitment to the state’s juvenile detention center. This detention center, sometimes called “Juvenile Hall,” is the closest to a prison sentence a juvenile offender can receive. Juveniles can be committed until they come of age, which may be as late as 21 or 25 years old, depending on the state laws. In Minnesota, a minor’s sentence can be stayed until they turn 21.

Certifying Minors as Adults

In some cases, the court may wish to try a minor as an adult. There are some limitations to this process. The minor must be between 14 and 17 years old, has allegedly committed a crime that would result in a prison sentence as an adult, and probable cause has been found that the minor committed the crime. After a juvenile civil petition has been filed, the state must notify the juvenile, their guardians, and their attorney of the intention to move to have the minor certified to be tried as an adult. A certification study will be performed, in which the juvenile’s emotional health, maturity, education, support network, and other factors will be examined. Separate from the criminal trial, a certification hearing will be used to determine if the child can be tried as an adult. If it can be shown that proceeding with the case in juvenile court does not serve the public’s safety, the trial may be transferred to an adult criminal court. If the minor is tried as an adult, they may be subject to imprisonment, according to the adult penalties of their crime.

If your child is facing charges, you need dedicated legal representation. Our Minnesota juvenile crime attorneys will fight to ensure your child receives a fair hearing and is tried appropriately. Contact Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A. to learn how we can help.


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