A juvenile cases is a civil, not criminal proceeding. For practical purposes, the ramifications of a juvenile court adjudication of delinquency or unruly will not appear much different from an adult criminal conviction in the Minor’s immediate perception. Both carry potential probation and possible incarceration. Both can be a hinderance for future career decisions. The main difference is that a juvenile finding of delinquency or unruly is civil in nature, not criminal. Therefore, on job applications, if the application asks “Have you been convicted of a crime?” The answer is “No.” Since a juvenile case is not criminal in nature, a minor cannot be convicted of a crime in juvenile court. On the other hand, it is possible to transfer a juvenile proceeding to adult criminal court pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 37-1-134. If a transfer is ordered, the minor, (age 17 years 364 days or less), suddenly becomes an adult for trial purposes. This procedure is usually reserved for major crimes, such as murder or armed robbery, or for the minor who just won’t quit coming before the juvenile court. A transfer to adult court is generally considered a “last ditch option.” While a juvenile proceeding is designed to rehabilitate the misguided minor, an adult criminal proceeding is designed to protect society and punish the criminal offender. Simply put, the whole concept of what a court is suppose to do with the defendant changes drastically from juvenile court to adult criminal court.
When a juvenile is facing court proceedings, especially significant criminal charges, one should have an experienced advocate on their side. Attorney Greg Smith is a former juvenile court referee, (a type of judge), and he wrote a reference book on Tennessee juvenile law that is used throughout Tennessee. If you have a case in Montgomery County, Tennessee or the surrounding area, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 for a free consultation. Any juvenile court delinquency finding can see a minor in juvenile detention until their 19th birthday. A transferred juvenile case that is tried in adult court can carry significantly more time in jail or prison. Do not under-estimate the importance of legal representation in juvenile court.