There’s been quite a bit of coverage in the media lately about the recent ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court regarding sentences of life in prison without parole for juveniles. This ruling is expected to impact several cases here in Arizona that may now be re-opened and reviewed to see if the sentences were too harsh for criminals that were too young.
The truth is, the most common crimes committed by juveniles in Arizona rarely come with life-long sentences. That’s not to say that penalties for juvenile crimes are light. When you commit a crime as a juvenile, you will be punished and the consequences can have long-term effects on both the life of the offender and on his or her family.
Here are four of the most common juvenile crimes committed in Arizona and their potential penalties:
Alcohol Violations (Underage drinking, DUI)
In Arizona, the legal drinking age is 21, which means that anyone younger caught drinking or in possession of alcohol can be charged with a crime. Some of the most common underage drinking crimes include soliciting alcohol, possession, distributing to other minors and driving while intoxicated. Arizona courts are very tough on any DUI crimes and especially those that involve a minor. You can expect to spend at least 24 hours in jail, a $1600 fine and to have your driver’s license suspended for up to 360 days for a first time DUI offense.
Theft – Shoplifting
Juvenile shoplifting is typically considered a petty theft and is charged as a misdemeanor. However, if the value of stolen property is at least $1000 or more, the perpetrator can be charged with a felony. Penalties for juvenile theft or shoplifting often include restitution, which means the juvenile must pay for the stolen property. Probation and court-ordered counseling are also commonly imposed on the juvenile involved in the crime.
Illegal drugs such as marijuana and prescription-strength painkillers are easily accessible these days, and it is not uncommon to see or hear of teenagers experimenting with these drugs. It is a crime to be caught in possession of any illegal drug no matter your age. In most cases, possession of illegal drugs will be charged as a felony, which means that it is possible that a juvenile offender could face time in prison. Keep in mind that the drugs do not have to be found on their person for a juvenile to be charged with possession. When drugs are found in locations that are considered to be under the person’s control, such a school locker, backpack or in their bedroom at home, the juvenile can still be charged with possession.
Also known as criminal damage, vandalism is the destruction or defacement of property belonging to someone else without the owner’s permission. Most cases of juvenile vandalism start out as nothing more than a prank in the eyes of a young person. Some of the most common vandalism includes graffiti, breaking windows, egging cars, defacing buildings and damaging road signs. The problem is, depending on the circumstances, vandalism charges can range from class 2 misdemeanors to class 4 felonies, which carries steep penalties. A young person who engages in vandalism thinking they are just having fun with friends could end up in jail.
These are the types of juvenile crimes we most often see at Naegle & Crider. While none of these crimes will necessarily land a person in jail for the rest of their life, they should still be taken seriously. Even lesser penalties such as probation, can disrupt a young person’s life and set them back.
If you are a parent of a young person who has been charged with a juvenile crime, be sure to call Naegle & Crider Criminal Defense Attorneys as soon as possible. Our goal is to help you and your child put this crime behind you quickly so you can get back on track with your lives.