Your Juvenile Law Questions Answered:
Is there a difference between the juvenile court system and the adult court system?
The Maine Juvenile Court System is very different from the adult court system. The juvenile law system is designed to adjudicate criminal cases involving minors (age 17 or younger) and maintain their right to privacy in these matters. Unlike the adult court system which is public, the Juvenile Court System is generally private, held in a separate courtroom away from the general public.
The Juvenile Law System is often more lenient than the adult courts that prosecute adults for similar crimes and conduct. Yet, it can also be more demanding for minors and their families as the leniency usually come with more supervision, probation, and other monitoring restrictions. Having said that, the punishments that a minor can face can be severe, including detention in a facility removed from their families for a period of time, similar to incarceration in the adult court.
Overall, the Juvenile Court System is aimed at rehabilitating minors before they get bogged down in a system where they are likely to repeat such conduct as adults where the consequences are much more severe.
Do attorneys have special training for handling juvenile law matters as opposed to criminal adult matters?
The Maine Juvenile Court System can be complicated, overwhelming, and confusing. There are a select few who are trained and qualified to handle juvenile law matters. As highlighted above, the Juvenile Court process is quite different from the adult court system and requires a specified knowledge of the law. A trained juvenile defense attorney has the resources available to help address their client’s needs that can help the minor and their family before ever stepping foot in the Juvenile Courtroom.
Are juvenile records public?
Generally, Juvenile Court cases are strictly confidential. Court records and police reports are sealed and are not available for public review. That said, there are times when a juvenile matter could be “bound-over” to the adult court where the minor would be tried as an adult.
This is generally reserved for serious crimes like murder or felony-level offenses. If tried as an adult, their record would not remain confidential. There is also the possibility that misdemeanor offenses may become public record if the juvenile had been previously adjudicated of a Class D crime and now faces an additional Class D crime or higher.