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How long can a juvenile be in detention for a juvenile crime?

UPDATED: February 20, 2013

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When a juvenile is determined by a judge or jury to have committed a juvenile crime, the length of their sentence depends on the severity of their offense. A juvenile who is determined to have committed what would be a felony in adult court can spend years in a secure detention facility. State and federal rules regarding the length of a juvenile sentence vary widely.

In certain cases juveniles are ordered by judges to have their case heard in adult court. States have their own rules about when a juvenile is automatically waived into adult court. If a juvenile is charged as an adult in criminal court, the length of their sentence is determined by state or federal criminal statutes for adults. A juvenile will be moved to a facility for adults when they reach a certain age determined by state or federal government rules. In some cases, older juveniles go directly to prison rather than first to a juvenile facility.

Juvenile Sentences

There is no typical juvenile sentence for someone who is found guilty of a juvenile crime. A juvenile sentence can range from several hours of community service to two weeks in a non-secure juvenile detention facility to years in a secure juvenile detention facility followed by years in a state or federal prison.

A non-secure juvenile detention facility may have stricter rules than the juvenile’s home, but less strict rules than a secure detention facility. An example of a non-secure juvenile detention facility is a group half-way house where a juvenile lives while they attend school. If a juvenile leaves a non-secure detention facility, they may be ordered to finish their juvenile sentence in a secure detention facility. If a juvenile is determined to have committed another juvenile crime while they are serving a sentence, the length of their stay in detention may be extended.

Alternatives to Juvenile Detention 

Alternatives to detention include a juvenile sentence of home detention, also known as house arrest; curfew; probation; community service; substance abuse treatment; and psychological counseling. A juvenile may also be placed in foster care or a hospital. A state or the federal government may require a juvenile’s parent or guardian to pay for the cost of the juvenile’s care or treatment.

An experienced juvenile attorney will be able to assist a juvenile offender by keeping them out of adult court, offering a defense in their trial, and making an argument for a reasonable juvenile sentence. Anyone charged with a juvenile crime should contact a juvenile attorney prior to trial.

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