It’s an unfortunate fact in Arizona, and around the nation, that juveniles can and do commit almost all the same crimes as adults. The difference is in how the court system handles them.
What Is a Juvenile Crime?
The term juvenile crime refers to any crime committed by a person who is under 18 and still considered a minor in the eyes of the law. There are some instances when a juvenile may be treated as an adult in court. This happens when the crime committed is considered especially heinous or violent. Crimes such as homicide, rape, certain types of gang violence or other violent crimes may result in the minor being tried as an adult. When that happens, the court treats the minor just as if he or she were an adult.
What Are the Most Common Juvenile Crimes?
Most, but not all, juvenile crimes are less severe than those that would require them to be treated as an adult. Some of the more common crimes that juveniles commit in the state of Arizona include:
Vandalism. Criminal damage, or vandalism, is when a property is destroyed or defaced without permission of the owner. Most instances of juvenile vandalism result when a young person engages in what they think of as a prank. Examples of this include:
- Egging cars or houses
- Breaking windows
- Damaging road signs
- Defacing walls of the commercial property
Unfortunately, these can be serious crimes that carry serious charges. Vandalism charges range from misdemeanors to felonies. A night of mischief with friends could land a young person in jail.
Most of the time a juvenile is caught shoplifting, they are charged with a misdemeanor. However, if they have stolen property worth at least $1000, they can be charged with a felony. It’s common for shoplifting penalties to include court-ordered restitution – which means that they have to pay for the property they stole.
The drinking age in Arizona is 21. If someone under the legal drinking age is caught possessing or consuming alcohol, they can be prosecuted for committing a crime. Common crimes involving underage drinking include:
- Possession of alcohol
- Soliciting for the purchase of alcohol
- Distributing alcohol to other minors
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
DUIs carry harsh penalties in the state of Arizona. If a minor is convicted of a DUI, they will likely spend at least some time in jail along with a fine and suspension of their driver’s license.
Prescription painkillers and marijuana are frequently the drugs of choice for juveniles who are charged with drug possession. This is due, in part, to how readily available these drugs are to young people. Most of the time, even a juvenile offender will be charged with a felony for drug possession. If they do not fight the accusations with a drug crimes attorney or they are convicted, they may face time in prison. Minors frequently don’t realize that they don’t have to be carrying the drugs to be charged with possession. If the drugs are located in places that are considered to belong to them, such as in their backpack, locker at school, or bedroom, they will be charged with drug possession.
How Do I Help My Child?
If your minor child has been charged with a crime, it’s essential that they have an attorney familiar with the workings of the juvenile court system. If convicted, there can be life-long repercussions for minors. A criminal defense attorney experienced with the unique aspects of juvenile law may be able to minimize the damage by leveraging the juvenile justice system’s desire to rehabilitate rather than incarcerate. There are a wide range of alternatives to incarceration available to judges. Having a lawyer who can present your child’s case effectively can make a huge difference to the outcome of the case.