Juvenile Law FAQs

The following information is NOT legal advice nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. Each individual’s circumstances are different and the information below is general in nature.  Should you have specific questions about your particular circumstances, you should contact an attorney.

How does the juvenile justice system differ from the adult criminal justice system?

In general, the juvenile justice system is set up to process cases at a faster pace than adult court so that children do not spend a lot of time in the court system.  The juvenile justice system also focuses heavily on rehabilitation.

Is a conviction as a juvenile the same as a conviction as an adult?

A conviction in juvenile court is called an adjudication, not a conviction. If you or your child is adjudicated in juvenile court, in most instances, after a certain period of time, those records can be expunged, meaning removed from you or your child’s criminal record.

Is a guardian ad litem the same as a defense attorney?

guardian ad litem (GAL) is not the same as a defense attorney. In some instances, a GAL will be assigned to the case.  The GAL’s role is to advocate for the juvenile’s best interests, but is not an attorney for the juvenile. The GAL is not generally worried about the strength of the evidence in the case or whether the juvenile’s rights were protected when he or she was contacted by law enforcement. Rather, the GAL is concerned about the general well being of the juvenile. A defense attorney is necessary to protect the juvenile’s legal interests.

Can a juvenile be charged as an adult?

Under certain circumstances, a juvenile may be charged as an adult, meaning the prosecution may seek to file the case in adult court rather than in the juvenile court.  The process to file charges against a juvenile in adult court is called direct filing.  Direct filing is rare and is generally limited to very serious crimes.