Juvenile crime consists of a wide range of offenses, and Tennessee judges sentence young offenders to some of the most severe penalties in the country. However, the court uses various factors when determining how to proceed after your child’s violation.
These factors are essential for understanding the penalties your child potentially faces.
The type of offense
Juvenile offenses typically fall under two categories. First, a status offense is illegal primarily because it involves offenders under age 18. However, the same behavior would not be unlawful for an adult. Status offenses include truancy, possessing or smoking cigarettes and alcohol use.
Delinquency offenses are illegal regardless of the offender’s age. These include theft and shoplifting, assault and battery, illicit drug possession and use, trespassing and vandalism, disorderly conduct and handgun possession.
The severity of the offense
Status offenses involve a probationary period during which your child must agree to refrain from continuing the same or similar behaviors and possibly undertake community services and other forms of rehabilitation. However, probation violations may prompt a judge to give the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services custody of your child.
Delinquency offenses are either misdemeanors or felonies. According to a judge’s discretion, children who commit misdemeanors must undergo rehabilitation at facilities specializing in behavioral issues.
Children who commit felony crimes, including armed robbery, aggravated assault or murder, typically undergo minimum six-month stays in a state or privately-operated high-security facility, where the staff monitors and counsels them. However, Tennessee imposes the harshest penalty of 51 years in prison for first-degree murder, which is the same for adults.
A juvenile crime conviction can impact your child’s future, including education choices, job prospects, and financial security. For this reason, petitioning the court to expunge qualifying offenses from your child’s record is critical.