An area of the criminal law that deals with the individuals who are not old enough to be held liable for criminal acts is called juvenile justice. However, in terms of criminal responsibility not all minors are considered as juveniles and the juvenile law is mainly governed by the states. Accordingly, those who are considered as the juveniles are handled by the juvenile courts and its main aim is to ensure the safety and welfare of the children within the jurisdiction. While in most of the states in US, the age threshold is generally considered as 18 years, frequently it varies by the state’s juvenile justice system.
The main goal of the juvenile law is to differentiate and label juveniles depending on the reason for their juvenile court appearance and the facts of their case. Most of the states separated juveniles into three categories such as delinquents, abused or deserted children, and children in need of services.
Normally the proceedings involved with the abused or neglected and needy children are less formal when compared to the dealings of alleged delinquents. According to juvenile law, children who have committed criminal act which would result in prosecution if committed by an adult are referred as delinquent juveniles.
Unlike the adult criminal courts where the offense committed and appropriate punishments are highly focused, the juvenile courts have no authority to punish and penalize. As per the juvenile law of justice, the juvenile courts proceedings are very flexible and mainly focus on the child’s welfare and try to meet the needs through rehabilitation, care & custody, and treatment.
The age definition is very important in juvenile law as it determines whether a young individual accused of criminal behavior will be charged with a felony in adult court or in the juvenile court. For many crimes especially if it is more violent, the age at which a minor may be tried as an adult is variable below the age of 18 or (less often) below 16 depending upon the state’s juvenile law. But there are many controversies and challenges to this law in some states including Florida, where an individual with heinous crime offense is tried as an adult regardless of age.
Even though the federal government has less interference in the state’s juvenile law, the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act passed by the congress sets the rules with regards to court proceedings and punishments. Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act of 1968 was later revised in the year 1972 with more enhancements to assist the state and local communities for preventing the delinquents and helping the individuals with necessary support.