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How Do Arizona Juvenile Courts Differ From Adult Courts?


Going through the juvenile court system can be a nerve-racking experience when you are not sure about what to expect. Will your child be tried as an adult? Can a juvenile crime be expunged after a while? Our juvenile crimes defense attorneys weigh in on key differences between juvenile and adult courts and what can be done to keep a juvenile conviction from affecting your child’s future.

What Happens When a Minor Is Charged With a Juvenile Crime in Arizona?

The key difference in juvenile court is that the state seeks to rehabilitate the delinquent minor and help them avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Adult courts, on the other hand, seek to punish the defendant for the crime.

When a minor is charged with a juvenile crime, they may be detained (instead of arrested) and will appear before a judge for a disposition hearing, which is the equivalent of a sentencing hearing in adult court. Juvenile courts have no jury, and it is solely up to the judge to make decisions.

When Are Juvenile Cases Transferred to an Adult Court?

There are a few instances that may lead a prosecutor to request that a juvenile case be transferred to an adult court. A case can be transferred to an adult court if the minor committed a particularly violent or egregious crime such as first-degree murder.

Once a case is transferred to adult court, the minor is no longer protected by juvenile court rules, and the case becomes public. Penalties can be much harsher, and the focus is shifted from rehabilitation to punishment. Working with a juvenile crimes attorney is essential to try and keep the case in juvenile court and avoid the negative impacts of a transfer to adult court.

Can Juvenile Crime Convictions Be Expunged?

Juvenile records are not public so that the juvenile’s past mistakes don’t continue to haunt him or her in the future. Most juvenile records are expunged or erased when the juvenile turns 18, as long as certain eligibility requirements are met.

If you have a child or loved one going through the juvenile justice system, working with an attorney may be the best decision to help you and the child navigate this rough situation. At the Naegle Law Firm, PLC, we have assisted many youths and their families to achieve a positive outcome in their cases, reducing charges and avoiding transfers to an adult court. We are here to help. Reach out at (480) 245-5550 for a free consultation.

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