A juvenile arrest is the arrest of a person who is under the legal age of adulthood. This means he is under the age that a particular jurisdiction has set for charging people as adults. The age at which one stops being considered a juvenile in criminal cases varies, depending on the jurisdiction. In many places, a person is considered a legal adult at the age of 18. In other places, a person may be considered an adult long before 18 or as late as 25 years old.
Juvenile arrests may occur in cases that involve lesser crimes, often referred to as misdemeanors or summary offenses, or more serious criminal acts, often referred to as felonies or indictable offenses. When a juvenile is arrested, he may be handcuffed, fingerprinted, and photographed; this is similar to what an adult may expect when arrested. One major difference, however, often involves when a law enforcement officer can arrest a juvenile or an adult. In some places, a law enforcement officer may not arrest an adult on misdemeanor charges unless he personally witnesses the accused committing the crime. In a juvenile case, a law enforcement officer may have the right to arrest a juvenile based solely on having reasonable cause to believe the minor committed a crime.
The laws concerning a juvenile arrest may vary widely from country to country, but law enforcement officers often have at least a few options for dealing with juveniles. For example, a law enforcement officer may issue a warning to a juvenile instead of arresting him. He may also release him but refer him to a counselor or probation officer. He can also take the minor into custody and place him in a holding facility for juveniles. In many jurisdictions, adult criminals are kept separate from the minors.
Many places have unique laws for juvenile arrest situations. For example, the law may require authorities to notify the juvenile’s parents right away or within a certain amount of time after an arrest. A jurisdiction’s laws may also limit the amount of time a juvenile can be detained before seeing a probation officer or judge. Prosecutors may have a limited amount of time to file charges against a juvenile. After that specific time period has passed, the law may require the juvenile's release.
In some places, a minor may be charged and tried as an adult after a juvenile arrest. This means the juvenile would be subject to the same trial process and sentencing as an adult. This may happen because the juvenile has repeatedly been arrested for the same crime or because the crime is particularly serious.