There are two main criminal court systems in the United States: juvenile and adult. These systems are quite different from each other because they each have a unique approach to crime. Typically, if you are under the age of 18, you will go before the juvenile court. However, it is possible in some cases for the state to decide to try you in adult court. Because of this, it is essential that you understand how these two systems differ.
According to PBS, the juvenile system focuses on rehabilitation and helping young offenders to rebuild their lives and move away from criminal activity. It sees them as being capable of change. The adult system focuses more on punishment and the assumption that you should have known better than to commit a crime. It often overlooks the chance for rehabilitation and focuses in on how to hold you responsible for your actions.
The juvenile system offers you more privacy. The court limits who can access your records. Adult court records are available publicly. People can even come to watch your court proceedings if they like. This does not happen in juvenile court.
If you have a juvenile conviction, the state will seal your records when you turn 18. They will not have an impact on you moving forward except if you get in trouble with the law again. Your adult records stay with you unless you seek expungement or get a pardon.
Finally, in juvenile court, the judge will look at many factors about you. This might include your home life, how you do in school and any problems you may have. The approach is to take a well-rounded look at you and what led you to court to seek out a solution that will help ensure you do not find yourself back in court again. In adult court, the judge only cares about the facts and legal aspects of the case. While you may bring in outside factors to your defense, the court largely looks at the legal aspects when making a decision.