Many juveniles are charged with crimes in Philadelphia every year. The crimes they commit range from curfew violations to drug possession to serious felony level crimes. However, there are differences between adult court and juvenile court. For instance, the consequences are a little different in the juvenile system. The goal of the punishments is to help rehabilitate the juvenile so they do not commit the same crimes as an adult.
However, there are many collateral consequences that many juveniles do not consider and many times the collateral consequences are more damaging to a juvenile than the one handed out by the court. These collateral consequences are often long-term and last much longer than the sentence given to them.
For instance, juvenile records are open to the public if a child is at least 14 years old and commits a felony level offense. It may also affect their ability to get a job or obtain certain licenses. The juvenile may be expelled from school and have difficulty being accepted into a new one. It can affect their ability to join the military. Certain offenses come with a suspension of a juvenile’s driver’s license. Also, depending on the offense, a juvenile may not be able to get public housing. Certain juvenile adjudications may also prevent them from possessing a gun.
These collateral consequences are often times not discussed at the time of sentencing. These consequences are completely separate from the consequence given by the judge and can ultimately have a greater impact on their life. These consequences are also not negotiable in many circumstances.
If a juvenile is charged with a crime the only way to avoid many of these is to avoid adjudication. Many times there are defenses to crimes and other ways to avoid adjudication. Attorneys understand the defenses and importance of avoiding these consequences and may be helpful if one has been charged with a juvenile offense.
Source: Pennsylvania Courts, “The Pennsylvania Juvenile Collateral Consequences Checklist” accessed on Oct. 20, 2014