Utah Juvenile Cases are Generally Considered Civil Proceedings

Except for traffic violations and a few other situations, Utah juvenile offenses are generally considered to be civil matters as opposed to criminal issues.

The only times a minor may be charged with a crime in Utah are in the following circumstances:

• Murder
• Aggravated murder
• Offenses that would be considered felonies if committed by an adult if the juvenile has previously been committed to a secure facility
• Felony violations of:
• Aggravated arson
• Aggravated assault with serious bodily injury
• Aggravated kidnapping
• Aggravated burglary
• Aggravated robbery
• Aggravated sexual assault
• Felony discharge of a firearm
• Attempted aggravated murder
• Attempted murder
• Traffic violations

Even though this may seem like a lengthy list, the majority of offenses committed by Utah juveniles don’t fall under these categories. Although wrong, many offenses are of a much more minor nature—things that kids can rebound from.

We have previously noted that Utah juvenile courts are theoretically designed to help rehabilitate kids who have committed offenses that might be serious but don’t require long-term, if any, detention/prison stays.

Help Your Child

In spite of the law’s best efforts, though, it is possible for good kids to have bad outcomes from a juvenile court. It’s always in your child’s interest to have him or her represented by an experienced Utah juvenile defense attorney.

If your child has committed any offense and is now is legal trouble, talk to a Utah juvenile defense attorney today. Getting your son or daughter the help they need now may prevent further legal problems in the future.

Utah Juvenile Court Act Definitions

The Utah Juvenile Court Act provides for the juvenile court to have exclusive, original jurisdiction in cases involving a child under the age of 18 who has violated local, state or federal laws or local municipal ordinances. If you have a child who is part of the juvenile justice system, it can be helpful to know what different terms you might hear mean. To keep issues from being overwhelming or confusing, it’s always a good idea to consult with a Utah juvenile defense attorney as well.

Photo: Mr. T in DC

Juvenile Court Act Definitions

Adjudication: a finding by the court and put into a decree, that the facts alleged in a petition (provided by the prosecution) have been proved

Child: a person under the age of 18

Court: refers specifically to the juvenile court

Detention: includes both home and secure detention for the temporary care of a minor who requires secure custody in a physically restricting facility pending court disposition, transfer to another jurisdiction or while under the jurisdiction of the court

Formal referral: a written report from a peace officer or other person telling the court that a minor is or seems to be within the court’s jurisdiction and that a petition may be filed

Group rehabilitation therapy: psychological and social counseling of one or more people in a group—depending on a therapist’s recommendation

Intellectual disability: intellectual functioning that is considerably subaverage, including an IQ that is 70 or lower

Non-judicial adjustment: when a case is closed by an assigned probation officer without judicial determination upon written consent of said probation officer, the minor or the minor and his legal guardian

Not competent to proceed: a minor who has a mental disorder, intellectual disability or other condition who doesn’t have the ability to understand what’s happening to him or cannot rationally understand and participate in the legal proceedings he’s involved in

Probation: a legal status created by the court following an adjudication where the minor is allowed to stay in his home under certain restrictions while being supervised by a court agency. If the probation is violated, the minor would be required to return to court.

Secure facility: any facility providing 24-hour supervision and confinement for youth offenders. These facilities must be administered by or contracted with the Division of Juvenile Justice Services.

Hopefully these definitions will help you better understand what is often considered legal jargon by the average person. Don’t hesitate to ask your Utah juvenile defense attorney any questions you have about your child’s case.

Can Utah Juveniles Commit Crimes?

The common sense answer to that question is obvious: of course they can. But, as in many legal matters, the technical answer is more complicated.

Utah Juveniles are Adjudicated

When Utah juveniles are charged with a crime, the law doesn’t call it a crime. Instead of being “convicted” of a crime, juveniles are “adjudicated” as delinquent.

The language of the law goes out of its way to say that juveniles are charged with committing “an act which if committed by an adult would be a criminal offense.” In fact, Utah law says that instead of being called a criminal case, a juvenile case “shall be regarded as a civil proceeding.”
But, just because juveniles are not technically charged with “crimes” doesn’t mean that they are free from consequences of committing illegal acts.

Utah Juveniles Still Face Consequences

Utah juveniles who violate the law can be placed in detention, can have a criminal record that follows them into adulthood and can be required to register as sex offenders. They can be ordered to pay fines or restitution.

Generally, the goal of a juvenile court proceeding is to help the juvenile become a productive and law abiding citizen. Unlike adult courts which may focus on punishment and deterrence, the juvenile courts try to balance accountability with an effort to help a young person get on the right track.
For that reason, a juvenile may be ordered to attend classes, complete an education, get therapy or counseling or perform community service. Under some circumstances, some juveniles might be diverted out of the juvenile court altogether and have their cases dismissed.

On the other hand, for particularly serious offenses, a juvenile may be ordered to stand trial in adult court. In those cases, the juvenile could be subject to all of the harsh penalties facing any adult criminal defendant.

Getting the Right Legal Advice

Even under less serious situations, the consequences of a juvenile court record do not necessarily disappear at age 18. If a youngster in your life is in trouble with the juvenile court, the best thing to do may be to get competent legal advice regarding your options.

There are many ways the juvenile court can help a troubled youth. The best way to make sure the
system works the right way is to get an experienced Utah juvenile defense lawyer who can help you and your child make the best choices while navigating the juvenile court process.

A good juvenile defense attorney can answer all your questions and make a huge positive difference for a young person who needs help.