What is a Juvenile Arrest?

N. Madison
N. Madison

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.

A juvenile may be handcuffed and fingerprinted during an arrest.
A juvenile may be handcuffed and fingerprinted during an arrest.

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.

Fingerprints are taken when juveniles are arrested.
Fingerprints are taken when juveniles are arrested.

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.

Juvenile arrests may occur in cases that involve lesser crimes, often referred to as misdemeanors or summary offenses.
Juvenile arrests may occur in cases that involve lesser crimes, often referred to as misdemeanors or summary offenses.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


After you get arrested as as a juvenile and get processed, go to court and get home detention, is your PO or whoever is overlooking your case allowed to urine test you?


@JimmyT - That is probably the case as the juvenile courts in the country are really inconsistent as far as charging juveniles with crimes goes and some will keep the juvenile offenders arrested after they turn adult age.

I think that one reason they allow some people to go once they become adults is because they do not want the teenagers to become institutionalized prisoners and not be able to re-enter society.

There is the belief by many that people that occur such crimes at an early age may not be conscience of what they are doing and should not be put in prison for so long a time that they cannot re-enter and contribute to society.

I disagree with these thoughts entirely as in the case you described, because if they had been merely a few years older they would have been sent to prison for life at least.

I really have to wonder if there are politicians or law makers out there looking to standardize juvenile arrest and sentencing procedures and be able to prevent sentencing like this from occurring?


I really am wondering how exactly a juvenile can be tried as an adult?

It seems to me, through cases I have observed over the years, that these occur at absolute random in serious crimes and that it all depends on the judge that decides whether or not to try the juvenile offender as an adult or not.

I have heard of serious crimes occurring involving juveniles in which they were allowed to be tried as juveniles, much to the dismay of observers of the case.

One instance I know involved a murder from two teenagers of a younger boy and because they were tried as juveniles they were released when they turned 18 after only serving 4 years in prison!

This I found unbelievable, because they were found guilty of 1st degree murder and I wonder if the legal system had a loophole that only allowed them to get charged in such a way as juveniles.

@titans62 - Well, although records can be wiped clean for juvenile offenders it all depends on what state one is in the what the laws are that govern such people.

I know that in some states it all depends on what the crime is. Say it is something like petty theft then it will probably be erased off the juvenile's record once they reach a certain age, but a lot of times if it is considered a felony then it will stay on the person's record into adulthood.

Juvenile laws vary all across the country and it all depends mostly on the state on is in. As far as not making juvenile arrests public record, it also varies a great deal as in my state, the arrest of the crime is, but the trial and sentencing portion is never known.

I know that juvenile arrests usually are not allowed to be known by the public or talked about and I really never understood why this is so.

I can understand that there are certain types of instances where this is understandable, like say the juvenile was a victim, but I feel hat if someone breaks the law and is arrested that the public has a right to know no matter what the person's age is.

I have also heard that once a person is no longer considered a juvenile their juvenile arrest record is wiped clean and they basically start from scratch. I know that people can change over time and that people may do rather dumb things when they are young, but why is it these crimes can be wiped clean just because one is a certain age, while an adult may keep the crime on their record for the rest of their life?

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