When a minor violates a law, there is a separate legal structure known as the juvenile justice system that is responsible for handling their case. Arizona’s juvenile justice system was designed with a focus on enforcing the law, managing juvenile offenses, and helping rehabilitate minors at the same time. Since this system was created to rehabilitate juvenile offenders, so they do not become adult offenders, the way it is structured is different from that of the adult criminal justice system in Arizona.
Legal offenses involving minors and their corresponding cases in juvenile court can become complicated quickly, so we created a comprehensive guide to help you better understand and navigate Arizona juvenile crime laws and punishments. Here’s everything you might need to know about Arizona’s juvenile justice system and how delinquency and incorrigibility are handled throughout the state.
Juvenile Crimes in Arizona
Juvenile delinquency is the legal term used to refer to the behavior of minors who commit misdemeanors or felonies in Arizona. While Arizona does have fewer juveniles receiving the worst penalties for their crimes, minors in the state commit a multitude of offenses each year. For example, in 2020 alone, Arizona law enforcement completed almost 14,000 juvenile arrests.
Some of the most common offenses include:
- Simple assault (accounts for 19% of all juvenile arrests)
- Larceny and theft
- Disorderly conduct
- Drug possession
- Aggravated assault
- Liquor law violations
- Robbery /Armed robbery
- Weapons violations
- Motor vehicle theft
In addition to these offenses, which would remain crimes if committed by an adult, there are a few juvenile-specific offenses that apply only to minors. Continued violation of these rules could lead to incorrigibility charges, which can result in penalties like community service, fines, and even probation.
- Running away from home
- Violating home or local curfew rules
- Disobeying a lawful court order
- Any other act that is only illegal when committed by a juvenile
Juvenile Justice System in Arizona
The justice process for minors in Arizona generally follows the same basic steps, whether the offense is considered an incorrigible or delinquent act.
These steps include the following:
Delinquent or Incorrigible Behavior Occurs
Arizona law considers a juvenile to be a minor between the ages of 8 and 18 years old. If a juvenile commits a delinquent or incorrigible offense, their case must be handled by the state juvenile justice system with a few specific exceptions. Once the incorrigible or delinquent behavior occurs, a juvenile may either receive a ticket, a citation, or be arrested for their charge while it is further investigated.
The Crime Is Determined
In most cases, law officers will further investigate the offense in question to determine what happened and the nature of the offense. After this occurs, they will send a full report to the County Attorney’s office to validate whether a crime took place and whether penalties should be pursued. If the County Attorney determines that a delinquent act did occur, charges will be filed with the local juvenile court.
Advisory Hearing Scheduled and Representation Assigned
Once a petition has been filed against the juvenile that allegedly committed the delinquent act, the next step in the process will involve scheduling an advisory hearing. This hearing is used to determine how the proceedings of the case will occur and whether the juvenile must be placed in detention during the process. Before the actual hearing occurs, the juvenile in question can either seek representation by an Arizona juvenile attorney or they will be assigned representation by the state.
Advisory Hearing Takes Place
After the juvenile and their parents or guardian have been notified of the advisory hearing and have had time to consult with an attorney about the situation, the official advisory meeting will take place. During this hearing, the juvenile’s attorney will answer for them and state whether they wish to admit to the offense or wait to settle it in a trial, known as adjudication in juvenile court. From there, the judge will determine if the juvenile can be released to stay with their parents until their next court date or if detention is necessary.
Adjudication Hearing Takes Place
If an adjudication is necessary for a juvenile’s delinquent act, the hearing will proceed much like a mixture between adult criminal court and civil court. There is no jury in a juvenile adjudication, but the court proceedings share many similarities with criminal court. During the hearing, the state’s attorney must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the juvenile committed a delinquent act. If there are any witnesses, they’ll be called to testify at this time by the state or the juvenile’s attorney. The juvenile’s attorney will also have the opportunity to refute these claims and present their client’s defense.
Judgement and Disposition
Once all witnesses have testified and each side has stated their case, the judge will present a final judgment on the matter. If the prosecution didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile committed a delinquent act, the case will be dismissed, and they will be free to go. If the juvenile is found to have committed a delinquent act, a disposition hearing must take place to determine the consequences. This could include time in juvenile detention, probation, fines, community service, or even placement into a residential facility.
Arizona’s Juvenile Justice System and Adult Criminal System
As mentioned, the juvenile justice system shares many components with the adult criminal justice system. In both systems, the defendants have the right to an attorney, the right to know the full charges against them, the right not to incriminate themselves in court, and the right to have the prosecution’s witnesses cross-examined by their own representation.
However, the adult criminal system places a heavier focus on punishments, especially for habitual offenders. By contrast, the juvenile system was designed to focus on the potential for rehabilitation of younger individuals who commit delinquent acts.
Some of the other differences between the two justice systems include the following:
- Offenses committed by adults are referred to as “crimes” or “criminal acts,” whereas offenses committed by juveniles are considered “delinquent acts.”
- Adults face charges when there is a legal complaint filed against them, whereas juveniles face a petition of their potential charges.
- Adults are found to be “guilty or not guilty,” but juveniles are only tried to find whether they “committed or did not commit” an offense.
- There are no juries in juvenile cases, unlike in adult criminal court.
- There are no “convictions” in juvenile court like there are in adult criminal court; instead, the juvenile is “adjudicated.”
- Since a judge is responsible for issuing consequences based on their discretion and with the goal of providing rehabilitation, juvenile consequences are often more lenient than those in adult criminal court.
- Juvenile court proceedings are private (closed), unlike adult court hearings which are typically open to the public.
Potential Consequences for Juveniles in Arizona
If a juvenile is found to have committed a delinquent act, they may face a variety of potential consequences.
Some of the most common consequences for juveniles in Arizona include the following:
An individual may be assigned probation on its own or in addition to other consequences. Probation can come in many forms and will depend largely on the severity of the delinquent act. In some cases, a juvenile may be assigned intensive probation where they are under strict monitoring and must meet an obligation. In other circumstances, individuals may be given standard probation with regular check-ins if a judge believes they don’t need consistent monitoring.
Community service is commonly mandated in addition to other penalties like fines and probation. It is assigned as a method of “restoration,” where an individual must take the opportunity offered to repair and support their community after committing a negative act. Community service is meant to be meaningful and inspire the individuals who participate by providing them with another perspective on the different issues they may have once created.
When a juvenile commits a serious offense or is a habitual offender, they may face detention as punishment for their delinquent actions. Juvenile detention comes in multiple forms, including residential treatment facilities, group homes, detention centers, long-term supervised facilities, and more. The type of juvenile detention an individual is assigned will depend on the severity of the offense, whether they are a danger to themselves or others, and whether they are a repeat offender.
Offense-Specific Counseling or Education Courses
Because the juvenile justice system prioritizes rehabilitation, individuals are often required to attend counseling sessions or education courses. The counseling or education course mandated will depend on the type of delinquent act that took place. For example, an individual who was found to have committed alcohol or drug law violations may be required to attend alcohol or drug counseling sessions to assist them in their healing process. In other situations, a juvenile may be required to take educational correction courses that give them insights on finding a career, conflict resolution strategies, and more.
Fines or Restitution
If a juvenile commits a delinquent act that results in the damage of another individual or business’s property, they (or their parents) will often be required to pay restitution for the individual’s losses. The court may also decide that the individual must pay a fine to the state, which often occurs if they are a repeat offender or damaged the community.
Can a Juvenile Be Tried as an Adult in Arizona?
According to Arizona law, a juvenile is any child between the ages of 8 and 18. When a juvenile commits a delinquent act, the law typically requires that it is handled by the state’s juvenile justice system. However, there are some cases in which a juvenile can be tried as an adult in the state of Arizona.
While it is not extremely common, juveniles who commit certain violent offenses may be tried as an adult.
These offenses include:
- First-degree murder
- Second-degree murder
- Forcible or armed sexual assault
- Armed robbery
- Any other offense deemed excessively violent
Juveniles charged as adults will be handled by the adult criminal court and sentenced to the appropriate penalties. These are more severe than those assigned during juvenile dispositions.
How Can an Attorney Assist You in a Delinquent Juvenile Case?
While you or your child may be assigned a public defender for your case, it’s highly recommended that you secure representation from a juvenile defense attorney you can trust. Here at The Valley Law Group, you can count on our skilled lawyers to build a formidable defense and take every measure necessary to secure your child the most favorable judgment possible.
A few ways our skilled defense lawyers can assist you include:
Navigate the Laws, Legal Proceedings, and Consequences
When it comes to any kind of legal proceedings involving a juvenile, it’s important to have someone on your side who is familiar with the laws of your case. An experienced juvenile defense lawyer not only can help you understand the laws involving your case, but they can also work to help navigate you through the various legal proceedings as they occur. It’s crucial to understand how the juvenile justice system will handle your case.
Gather Evidence and Create a Defense
Just as in adult court, a juvenile will need a defense attorney to represent them during their advisory and adjudication hearings. An attorney can not only help you gather evidence, but they’ll also evaluate your case to create the best defense possible. In juvenile court, the prosecution must prove that a delinquent act was committed by the juvenile, and having a skilled attorney is your best chance at avoiding the strictest consequences.
Give Voice During Advisory and Adjudication Hearings
Because an experienced lawyer has extensive knowledge of the law and how juvenile legal proceedings take place, they are extremely helpful during both advisory and adjudication hearings. Your lawyer will speak for you during these hearings and accurately convey your side to the judge. Coupled with a strong defense and powerful negotiation skills, a knowledgeable juvenile attorney is a key component to achieving the best outcome possible.
The Valley Law Group Provides Arizona Juvenile Law Assistance
While any type of juvenile delinquency case in Arizona can be complex, it is possible to navigate your case smoothly and successfully with the help of a skilled lawyer with experience in juvenile law.
At The Valley Law Group, our team of attorneys has decades of experience with the Arizona Juvenile Court system and is dedicated to protecting the rights of minors. You can trust our juvenile defense lawyers to represent you or your child’s rights and secure your best interests throughout your case.
For more information on Arizona Juvenile Law, schedule a consultation with our team, contact us today.
Jonathan Roeder, Co-Founder of The Valley Law Group, is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.
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