While juvenile crimes may be every bit as serious as those committed as adults, the courts are set up to treat juvenile defendants differently. This is because children do not always understand the consequences of their actions and how a crime committed in high school can have serious repercussions on the rest of the person's life.
When a person under the age of 18 is accused of committing a crime, it is often referred to as delinquency. Under Virginia law, a delinquent act is defined in its most general terms as "an act designated a crime under the law of this Commonwealth, or an ordinance of any city, county, town or service district, or under federal law." Common juvenile crimes include breaking and entering, theft, destruction of property and drug and alcohol offenses.
Juvenile crimes can include both misdemeanors and felony charges. In some cases, it may be the minor's family that is pressing charges, such as in cases of reported assault of unauthorized use of a family vehicle. While the guidelines surrounding misdemeanor charges may be a bit more flexible, felony charges are still very serious at the juvenile level and require adequate defense representation.
A juvenile is classified as anyone at or under the age of 17, but depending on the crimes and laws involved, it is possible for a juvenile defendant to be tried as an adult in Virginia. In these situations, the possible penalties and lifelong repercussion increase dramatically, making it critical that defendants discuss their situations and possible defense options with someone who understands the juvenile court system as soon as possible.
Source: Fairfax County Virginia, "Delinquency (Juvenile Criminal Cases)" Dec. 03, 2014