Juvenile law is law dealing with antisocial behavior of a minor, usually for acts that would be crimes if the juvenile were an adult. Such acts are usually described as juvenile delinquency for which the juvenile delinquent is punished by special laws. Juvenile law is a separate branch of criminal law. Juvenile law was developed to legally recognize that children usually do not have the capacity to make informed decisions about delinquent behavior.
Special rules govern when juveniles enter the justice system. The age for adult criminal liability is often 18 years. In many states there are statutes which benefit first offenders that are under the age of 21 years. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act defines juvenile delinquency as acts which are otherwise crimes but are committed by a person less than 18 years of age. The Act also provides mandatory rules for which state laws must comply regarding juvenile court procedures and punishment.
Juvenile offenses include DUI arrest, minor in possession of drugs and alcohol, robbery, rape, murder, and any other crime according to state and federal
law. Depending on the severity of the offense, hiring a juvenile attorney may be helpful in the juvenile justice process. Juvenile law has a great degree of built-in flexibility. Juvenile courts are authorized to consider the long range interests of both the juvenile and the state.
- Robert W. Taylor, Juvenile Justice (2001).