If your son or daughter has faced an arrest and is charged with a crime, it’s understandable that your family may be experiencing a lot of stress at this time. Especially if your child has never been in trouble with the law in the past, not knowing what to expect when he or she appears in juvenile court can cause much anxiety and worry in the days or weeks leading up to a hearing.
Juvenile court differs from the adult criminal justice system in several ways. The more you learn ahead of time, the better able you might be to make informed decisions that can help your son or daughter mitigate his or her circumstances.
Rehabilitation is the central focus in juvenile court
State laws reflect the understanding that a juvenile’s mind has not yet matured to adulthood. In short, not only your son or daughter, but most teenagers, might make choices as a youth that he or she would never make as an adult. Lack of life experience and maturity are the main reasons that the juvenile justice system hones in on treatment and rehabilitation instead of the punitive focus of the adult criminal courts.
Juveniles can maintain privacy more than adults
If police arrest an adult and charge him or her with a crime, the criminal proceedings are a matter of public record. If your child is facing criminal charges, though, the court will often deny public access to the records. You might find relief in knowing this because it means that there’s less of a chance for your son or daughter to face stigma both now and later in life.
Delinquency vs. guilty conviction
When a judge hands down a conviction in juvenile court, the legal term that is used is “delinquent,” as opposed to an adult conviction, which would be “guilty.” If your child serves time in a juvenile detention center, getting out on parole will include supervised community activities designed to help him or her have a successful transition back into the community.
South Dakota guidelines govern juvenile cases
If you were to read about the juvenile justice system in another state, its laws and guidelines might be different from those here in South Dakota. This is because every state is able to implement its own regulations and protocol regarding youth being arrested and charged with a crime.
Not knowing what to say or do to help your child navigate criminal proceedings can be stressful. Although you might feel embarrassed or awkward about reaching out for support, it’s helpful to speak to someone who is well-versed in juvenile justice guidelines in order to determine what options might exist for helping your son or daughter achieve the best outcome possible.