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In most states, including Colorado, juveniles often receive different treatment under the law, especially when they commit criminal acts. They are considered minors with little or no understanding of the law, and the criminal justice system hopes that they will soon or later ‘grow out’ of offending and embrace law-abiding lifestyles. That’s perhaps the reason why penalties imposed on minors often put more focus on rehabilitation and not punishment. In this article, we will explore several other ways in which juveniles are treated differently under the law. Before we dive in too deep, let’s first understand who is considered a juvenile under Colorado law.

Who is a Juvenile Under Colorado Law?

Under Colorado law, a juvenile is any person who is below eighteen years of age. However, it is important to note that the juvenile justice systems and juvenile courts have jurisdiction over children aged ten years and above if they violate:

  • Any state or federal law (except parks and recreation, game and fish, and non-felony state traffic laws or regulations);
  • Certain laws concerning marijuana and ethyl alcohol;
  • Specific laws regarding furnishing cigarettes or tobacco products to minors;
  • County or municipal ordinances, the punishment of which may include at least ten days in jail (except traffic ordinances); and
  • Any court or restraining order made with regard to the provisions of the juveniles’ code contained in

Differences Between Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems

When it comes to juvenile and adult treatment under the law, there are several differences in how criminal justice systems handle them. Here are various ways in which juvenile and adult crime systems differ:

Delinquent Acts V. Crimes: unlike adults, juveniles are not categorized as “criminals,” or considered to have committed “crimes,” but rather, “delinquent acts.”

Disposition v. Sentence: A convicted juvenile receives a “disposition,” as the outcome of their hearing, whereas an adult receives a sentence as punishment.

Rehabilitation v. Punishment: the juvenile court system focuses on rehabilitating the young offender before they become an adult. The penalty imposed for juvenile offenders puts more emphasis on education, therapy, and treatment rather than punishment.

Conviction v. Adjudication: An adult offender who is tried and found guilty is convicted of that crime while a juvenile is “adjudicated delinquent.”

Complaint v. Petition: A petition is filed in a juvenile offender case, but a complaint is filed in an adult criminal case.

Open v. Closed Hearings: juveniles’ proceedings are often closed, unlike those of adults. In most cases, the only people allowed in a courtroom during a juvenile hearing include the child, family lawyers, and probation officers. The main aim of closed hearings is to make it easy to rehabilitate minors by not exposing their activities to the public record.

Jurisdiction of trial: a juvenile’s hearing is often moved to their country of residence while adults are typically tried in the country where they commit a crime.

Rules of Procedure: In juvenile court, criminal procedure rules may be more relaxed while the rules of procedure are strictly observed in juvenile court.

Trial by Jury: Unlike adults, juveniles do not have a right to trial by jury. A juvenile case will be heard by a judge who determines whether or not the minor is guilty of a delinquent act.

Expungement: when it comes to removing a charge or conviction from a criminal record, expungement rules are more lenient to juveniles than adults.

Are There Similarities Between Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice System?

Although juveniles receive different treatment in the criminal justice system, most of the rights remain the same in both court systems. These include the right to:

  • Have the prosecutors prove your charges beyond a reasonable doubt
  • Know the charges against you
  • Not to incriminate yourself
  • Confront and cross-examine those witnessing against you
  • Hire an attorney

Can a Juvenile Be Tried as an Adult in Colorado?

The simple answer is yes. Nevertheless, the child must be at least 12 years of age and is facing either class 1 or class 2 felony charges. Under Colorado law, the chances of a juvenile being tried as an adult often increase as:

  • The child has a past history of delinquency,
  • When the offense is more severe,
  • The person’s age increases, and
  • The district attorney’s decision to transfer the case from juvenile court to district court

Contact Experienced Juvenile Attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani

If your child is facing juvenile charges for any crime in Colorado, it’s completely natural for you to feel anxious about what next. But there’s no need to worry. The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani have extensive experience in handling juvenile cases. Our Colorado attorney, Steven J. Pisani, takes serious felony cases in both the juvenile and district courts. Regardless of the specific circumstances surrounding your child’s case, he will help you build a compelling defense to challenge whatever evidence the prosecution has against your loved one. Give us a call today to schedule a confidential consultation and learn how we can help.


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