According to Street Law, a juvenile is any person who is not yet an adult. In most states and the District of Columbia, individuals under 18 years of age are considered juveniles. The District of Columbia along with most states in the United States view any person under the age of 18 that has committed a crime as a juvenile criminal. Acts of a juvenile crime include but are not limited to: truancy, smoking, drinking, theft, rape, murder, defiance towards parents or guardian, etc. A juvenile criminal can only be held in a juvenile institution until the age of 21, no matter how gruesome their offense may have been.
An illegal act that is committed by an adult, which is any person over the age of eighteen, is considered a crime. Acts such as disobedience, truancy, running away from home, smoking, and drinking are not considered as crimes for adults. Adult criminals receive public trials unlike delinquents or juvenile criminals. Adult criminals may receive sentencing such as life in prison or death, if suitable depending upon the nature of crime committed. Documented criminal acts committed by adults are often permanent, public records unlike the documented criminal acts committed by juveniles. Juvenile records are sometimes sealed for public records or dismissed.
The theory that juveniles are not mature enough to intentionally commit a crime has been around since the development of psychology as a science. In the 18th century, the authors of the English criminal code concluded that children, younger than seven had not acquired the mental ability to commit a crime such as murder, rape, burglary, etc. These experts used the following acts to determine if a crime committed was criminal or non-criminal: (1) The commission of the crime itself, (2) the intent to commit the crime, and (3) the interaction between the act and the intent to commit it. According to Marcovitz (2012), it has been cited that these factors led the British to their conclusion that youths were incapable of committing criminal acts. Since then, these principles have been adopted by American law makers.
There are no national standards that declare the exact age at when a defendant knows right from wrong; however, states have adopted a variety of laws declaring the age of criminal responsibility. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have set eighteen as the age of criminal responsibility; however, most defendants, seventeen or younger may be tried in juvenile courts. Some states such as Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois set their minimum age for criminal acts at sixteen. Despite that fact, that states set individual ages for juveniles to be to tried as an adult for the crime committed, it is accurate to note that juveniles can and have been tried as adults when under the minimum age within the state law.
In many cases judges or prosecutors can use waivers to have juveniles tried as adults, depending upon the nature of the crime committed....