When Can the Law Treat Your Grown-Up Child as a Juvenile?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Oct 14, 2022 | 0 Comments

Kids can never seem to grow older fast enough. Whether it's the official milestones of a driver's license at 16, voting rights at 18, legally buying alcohol at 21, or simply the unofficial milestones of a later curfew and more personal freedom, growing older for many young people represents one new achievement after another.

When it comes to the juvenile justice system in Pennsylvania, however, there are distinct benefits to remaining a “child” versus being an “adult.” Aside from certain violent and sex-related crimes, for which juveniles over the age of 15 may be tried as adults, young people are generally treated with more leniency than adults for the same types of criminal activity, and a guilty verdict is not considered a conviction of a crime as it is in the adult justice system. Further, a juvenile's legal records relating to their encounters with law enforcement are generally not available to the public, which benefits them immensely in future personal and business dealings.

For How Long Can a Kid Remain a Child?

Generally speaking, in Pennsylvania, once you turn 18, you're no longer considered a “child” under the law and are subject to the regular criminal court system. There are a couple of important exceptions to this. One is where the young person is under 21 but committed an “act of delinquency” – a crime – when they were under the age of 18. The second is where the person is under 21, but a court has ruled before they turned 18 that they were a “dependent child” and they are completing high school, enrolled in college, receiving certain types of job training, working full time, or are unable to generally care for themselves.

In these cases, there are significant benefits to the young person being tried as a juvenile versus facing the generally harsher legal climate of the adult criminal court system. If your child has been charged or arrested for any type of crime, you should seek the advice of an experienced juvenile defense attorney such as our Criminal Law Team. The laws surrounding the entire juvenile justice system are complicated and differ from those that apply in adult criminal courts. You and your child will benefit from the advice and support of our Criminal Law Team and the LLF Law Firm.

What About Continuing Crimes?

Sometimes criminal activity takes place over a longer time period that, in the case of young people, can begin while they are technically a “child” under the law and continue until and after they become an “adult.” Examples of this include an extended course of making or selling illegal drugs or membership in a gang that extorts money from local business owners over a long period of time.

In these difficult cases, there is a strong likelihood that if a young adult is arrested, they will be tried as an adult even if some of the criminal activity took place when they were still a “child” under the law. The decision on how to focus the charges will generally remain with the prosecutors, who could choose only to charge the young adult for the particular acts committed as adults. If your child is in this kind of situation, seek the help of our Criminal Law Team, which has experience with both the adult criminal system and the juvenile justice system in Pennsylvania.

Our Criminal Law Team and the LLF Law Firm Can Help

Our Criminal Law Team at the LLF Law Firm have years of experience representing both juvenile and adult defendants involved in criminal matters in Pennsylvania. They can help explain to you and your child what is going on with their case, what the legal options are, and how to best defend against the charges. Call our Criminal Law Team today at 888.535.3686 or contact us online today to learn more about how we can help.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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