Juvenile Justice System in Washington

Juvenile Justice System in Washington

Keeping an individual’s age and maturity in mind is important when it comes to criminal offenses, especially for minors. The juvenile justice system in Washington focuses on rehabilitating and reintegrating young offenders into society, contrasting with the adult justice system which aims towards deterrence. In the state of Washington, these two systems operate under separate guidelines, each tailored to address the unique needs of juveniles and adults. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer is here to defend juveniles to the fullest extent of the law, in order that their freedoms, rights, and futures are protected and nurtured.

Overview of the Juvenile Justice System 

The juvenile justice system in the state of Washington emphasizes the importance of rehabilitation by aiming to address underlying causes of crime. As such, procedures differ greatly from adult court to cater towards age and level of maturity. These procedures are implemented by way of encouraging juveniles to become productive members of society through support and guidance, and by not pressing charges if the defendant is too young. Rather than emphasizing punishment, this system seeks to provide intervention, education, and therapeutic services to help juveniles address their behavioral issues.

Minors ages 8 and Under:

Washington law considers minors under the age of 8 and under as incapable of committing a crime.

Minors ages 8-12:

Washington law presumes minors between the ages of 8 and 12 as incapable of committing a crime. However, if they show the capacity of understanding criminal acts the presumption will be removed.

Additionally, a warning may be issued during the initial contact with law enforcement if it is not deemed a serious offense. However, the officer may place the juvenile under arrest if the offense is serious, if the juvenile is a repeat offender, or if the juvenile is acting out or being uncooperative with the officer. The juvenile may then be held by the officer until a parent arrives, placed under protective custody, or placed in detention. The law prohibits the juvenile from being placed in detention with other adults if possible.

A prosecutor or juvenile intake officer will then take over the case. From here, there are a few different routes that the prosecutor or juvenile intake officer may take. One being dismissal, in which about 20% of cases referred are dismissed on average every year. Another option that the prosecutor or juvenile intake officer may take is an informal disposition in which certain requirements may be imposed such as taking classes specific to the offense, counseling, or restitution. The more serious decision that may be taken is to take the case to court, in which the juvenile will have a trial date set. A juvenile trial involves an adjudication hearing instead of trial by jury where the judge decides guilt. If the minor is found guilty, they receive a disposition, which outlines the recommended rehabilitation plan and possible consequences.

Distinct Features of the Juvenile Justice System

In Washington, the juvenile justice system has several distinctive features apart from the adult justice system. One such feature is the focus on confidentiality. While adult criminal records are accessible to the public, juvenile records are generally sealed to protect the minor’s future prospects and facilitate their successful reintegration. This confidentiality encourages minors to address their issues without fear of lifelong consequences, allowing them to move forward positively.

Another key distinction is the emphasis on diversion programs and community-based alternatives to incarceration. The state of Washington offers a range of diversion programs such as counseling, community service, or educational interventions to facilitate rehabilitation. These initiatives aim to address the root causes of delinquency while minimizing the negative impact of formal court proceedings.

Additionally, the juvenile justice system prioritizes education and rehabilitation. Washington state law mandates that juveniles receive educational services while in detention, ensuring they do not fall behind academically. This commitment to education helps young offenders reintegrate into society successfully.

Comparison to the Adult Justice System 

There are many distinct differences between the juvenile and adult justice systems in the state of Washington such as fewer opportunities for diversion, harsher sentences, and a trial by jury. The adult system prioritizes public safety and holds individuals accountable for their actions, often resulting in longer periods of incarceration.

In terms of record accessibility, adult criminal records are generally available to the public, potentially impacting employment prospects and other aspects of an individual’s life. In contrast, sealed juvenile records aim to give young offenders a fresh start after they have successfully completed their rehabilitation.

How Can We Help You?

The juvenile justice system and adult justice system in Washington operate under separate guidelines to cater to the unique needs of young offenders and adults, respectively. While the juvenile system prioritizes rehabilitation, education, and confidentiality, attempting to safeguard and promote the future of minors who may find themselves in legal troubles. Juvenile cases require experienced and knowledgeable attorneys, which you can find at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer. We handle numerous juvenile cases and work hard to build quality defenses to protect their futures.

Don’t hesitate, time is of the essence. Call the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer at (360) 334-6277 today to schedule your free consultation.