Differences between Juvenile Court and Adult Court in Utah

When a teenager in Utah is charged with a crime, it can be handled by either the juvenile court or the adult court and it is important to know the differences between the two.

Juvenile court

Juvenile Court or Adult Court
Photo by: State Farm

Although the juvenile court handles cases of criminal activity by minors, it is a civil court where the goal is not to punish kids but to teach and rehabilitate them while also ensuring that they are not a danger to the community. Utah Code 78A-6-102 states: “The purpose of the [juvenile] court is to:

(a) promote public safety and individual accountability by the imposition of appropriate sanctions on persons who have committed acts in violation of law;

(b) order appropriate measures to promote guidance and control, preferably in the minor’s own home, as an aid in the prevention of future unlawful conduct and the development of responsible citizenship;

(c) where appropriate, order rehabilitation, reeducation, and treatment for persons who have committed acts bringing them within the court’s jurisdiction;

(d) adjudicate matters that relate to minors who are beyond parental or adult control and to establish appropriate authority over these minors by means of placement and control orders;

(e) adjudicate matters that relate to abused, neglected, and dependent children and to provide care and protection for minors by placement, protection, and custody orders;

(f) remove a minor from parental custody only where the minor’s safety or welfare, or the public safety, may not otherwise be adequately safeguarded; and

(g) consistent with the ends of justice, act in the best interests of the minor in all cases and preserve and strengthen family ties.”

Adult criminal court

If a teenager is charged with a felony listed under Utah’s Serious Youth Offender Act (78A-6-7), their case can be transferred to adult court where they can face serious repercussions including hefty fines and lengthy imprisonment. Offenses that are included in the Serious Youth Offender Act include:

• aggravated cases of arson;
• assault;
• kidnapping;
• burglary;
• robbery; and
• sexual assault; as well as
• felony discharge of a firearm;
• attempted aggravated murder; or
• attempted murder; or
• any subsequent offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon;

Juvenile defense attorney

Unfortunately in adult court, it is less lenient that juvenile court and those facing adult criminal charges should expect their sentencing to include more punishment without so much focus on education and rehabilitation. Additionally, once a case goes to adult court, those records which include the juvenile’s name are released to the public. For these reasons, it is imperative that juveniles and their parents and/or guardians seek counsel from a criminal defense attorney who has dealings with both the juvenile court as well as the adult court, and who will try diligently to keep all cases against minors within the juvenile court jurisdiction.

Juvenile Recidivism in Utah

When a juvenile is arrested shortly after being released for a previous offense, it is known as recidivism and continues to be a problem among the youth in Utah.

More than half re-offend

According to a study done by the Utah Criminal Justice Center in 2013, over half of all juvenile offenders return to incarceration within a year of being released from either community placements or secure facilities. The purpose of juvenile offender programs and detention facilities should be to help assess the needs of youth and get them the help they need to ensure the youth are capable of living in the community with a lowered risk of further criminal charges. If half of the youth are returning, the programs are not working.

Causes of juvenile recidivism in Utah

There are several possible causes for juvenile recidivism in Utah; the study by the Utah Criminal Justice Center along with other sources highlights a few of the key components that are consistently lacking among all types of treatment options put forth by the Juvenile Justice Services of Utah.

• Lack of continued mental health and substance abuse screening. Juvenile offenders will often go through initial mental health and substance use screening, yet these assessments should be continued at least biannually throughout the youth’s incarceration or detention to ensure they are receiving the adequate treatment for their specific needs to reduce their risk of recidivism.

• Communication gaps. The Juvenile Justice Services and the Juvenile Courts need to ensure that all information pertaining to a juvenile individual is shared entirely to ensure that all the needs of the youth are met to help them benefit fully from their treatment which in turn should help reduce some cases of recidivism.

• Adequate training for staff. All staff employed by the Juvenile Justice Services, from those who work in early intervention to those at the detention facilities should receive training on a regular basis to help them effectively use the results of all assessments to understand a youth’s risk level as well as their specific needs and how to incorporate treatment to fulfill those needs.

• Utilizing programs that work. There are several different programs available for youth through the Juvenile Justice Services. Some of them have a better track record than others. Those programs that are failing to successfully reintroduce youth into the community without a high risk of recidivism should not be used as often as they are.

Research options and be informed

Parents with youth who have been arrested for an offense need to speak to a juvenile defense attorney immediately to discuss not only defense options, but also effective treatment programs that may need to be implicated to help the youth avoid recidivism.

Dealing with Stress and Anxiety – Juvenile Drug Use in Utah

There are several possible explanations for the issue of juvenile drug use in Utah, however dealing with anxiety and high levels of stress may be all it takes to send kids looking for an escape through substance abuse.

Juvenile Drug Use in Utah
Photo by: CollegeDegrees360

Pointing fingers

Peer pressure, demographics, weak family relationships, and poor choices of friends are all areas that have received much of the blame for the problem of juvenile drug use in Utah. While these have been proven to play a noteworthy part in some cases of adolescent drug use, one area that is often overlooked is the everyday stresses of being a teenager.

Rough stage of life

Being a teenager is tough: classes are harder; relationships with friends can change suddenly and dramatically; dating can be cruel; more is expected from parents; and shifting hormones can make everything seem overwhelming at times. Teenagers can be left feeling sad, anxious, and stressed out. It is no surprise that the teenager years, especially starting around the ages of 12 and 13 is when juvenile drug use in Utah sees an intense increase in numbers.

“To feel better”

Photo by: Marius Dollinger
Photo by: Marius Dollinger

Teenagers are often at a loss at how to deal with everything that life is throwing at them. This can often be why normally good kids turn to drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Some adolescents suffer from depression, social anxiety, stress-related disorders, and physical pain. Using drugs may be an attempt to lessen these feelings of distress. Stress especially plays a significant role in starting and continuing drug use as well as returning to drug use (relapsing) for those recovering from an addiction.”

Learn to spot triggers for juvenile drug use in Utah

It is important for parents, teachers, and other adult role models to recognize when a teen needs help and to teach them how to deal with life issues before drugs come into play. This can protect the youth in Utah from a life of substance abuse and dependency or from having a criminal record.

Vandalism Charges for Egging Houses

Late night pranks such as toilet papering and egging houses may seem like harmless fun, but the pranksters could end the night with vandalism charges.

Winter break

Photo by: Philip Schatz
Photo by: Philip Schatz

For the next week or more, most youth throughout Utah have a break from school which also leads to a break from curfew and early bedtimes. With this newfound freedom, numerous teens take time away from their electronics to find something more entertaining to do. Late night pranks aren’t anything new; generations of teens have used the nighttime hours to get into a variety of mischief. Regrettably, some of these common rites of passage can essentially lead to vandalism charges.

Not a harmless prank

While some pranks are annoying yet harmless, other pranks such as egging houses are not as innocent. Egging houses can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage ranging from broken windows to entirely redoing a home’s siding. When a prank ends in damage, it is vandalism. Vandalism is considered criminal mischief and is punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the damage. Beyond criminal charges, homeowners who are targeted with the vandalism can press charges as well.

Mom of the year

Photo by: Ben Brown
Photo by: Ben Brown

Most parents understand the risk of criminal charges such as vandalism on a juvenile record and therefore discourage their teens from getting involved in acts of vandalism or criminal mischief. Other parents, the forever children, not only condone vandalism such as toilet papering or egging houses, but may help their kids out with the prank. This was the case for an Ogden Utah mom who helped her daughter and friends egg several houses throughout the Wasatch front. The mother is now facing criminal charges related to the vandalism and it is possible that the youth involved will face charges as well.

Idle hands

There are many safe and legal options out there to keep teens entertained during this winter break. However, for teens who have used this free time unwisely and are facing vandalism charges because of it, contact a juvenile defense attorney as soon as possible.

Lack of Remorse May Encourage Adult Charges

Having a lack of remorse about a crime may encourage a judge to charge a juvenile as an adult.

Sorry, not sorry

Photo by: Maddie Photography
Photo by: Maddie Photography

When a juvenile commits a crime, the prosecution may discuss whether or not the youth should be charged as an adult. This is most often the case for more heinous crimes such as murder. When a juvenile has a lack of remorse for the crime, it is harder for his defense to prove him to be nothing more than an immature person who made a big mistake. Showing a lack of remorse may spell out a criminal nature, or a sociopath in the making.

Not something to brag about

Even if a juvenile shows remorse in the courtroom, what he does prior to that will be taken into account. Youth who brag about their crime to peers or continually blame the victim in the case may be accused of lack of remorse and therefore struggle to prove to the judge that they feel sorry. Remorse should begin the second the crime has been committed, or once the shock of the situation wears off. Any action contrary to that will be noted by authorities and may be used against the defendant.

Counseling suggested

Photo by: Bridget H
Photo by: Bridget H

Frequently, youth who are responsible for causing pain or death of another may be in denial of what they have done or their brain may block out the event to protect their mental wellbeing. For this reason, the accused may appear as though they have a lack of remorse, when in fact they are merely dealing with the crime as they would any other tragic situation, by blocking it out. When this is the case, counseling may help them to come to terms with the charges and their grief so they can feel and show their remorse. For any youth who are facing possible adult charges, it is important to speak with a juvenile defense attorney immediately.