What are the Most Common Infractions Committed by a Juvenile Offender?

May 31, 2012

Typically, infractions committed by juveniles can be separated into four distinct categories:

  • Status offenses are behaviors that are classified as violations of the law only because of the offender’s age. These most commonly include truancy, curfew violations, incorrigibility (or the refusal to obey parents or guardians), running away from home, and the possession or consumption of alcohol;
  • Drug offenses are crimes involving the possession, consumption, or sale of drugs. These most commonly include marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession with intent to sell;
  • Property crimes are crimes against property, and most commonly include theft, larceny, auto theft, vandalism, possession of a deadly weapon, and arson; and
  • Violent crimes, are crimes against victims, and most commonly include assault and battery, homicide, rape, and sexual assault.

Traditionally, status offenses, drug offenses, property crimes, and violent crimes, were handled in the juvenile justice system. In 1974, the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act “deinstitutionalized” these infractions, redirecting the juveniles out of the court’s jurisdiction in order to reduce the stigmatism of being formally processed.

Today, juvenile offenders who commit status offenses are judged to be in need of “supervision, services, or care,” most likely because status offense behaviors are often aggravated by a combination of poor family dynamics, problems at school, and peer pressure.

The goals of the state for treating juvenile offenders typically involve preserving healthy family dynamics, ensuring public safety, and preventing recidivism. Generally, sentencing for juvenile offenders is separated into two categories: (1) incarceration and (2) non-incarceration. Incarceration penalties include:

  • Home confinement or house arrest;
  • A short term stay in a juvenile hall or juvenile detention facility;
  • A long term stay in a secured juvenile facility; or
  • A sentence in an adult jail.

Non-incarceration penalties include:

  • Suspension of the juvenile’s driver’s license or permit;
  • Restitution, usually in the form of a fine or community service;
  • Electronic monitoring, which typically involves a wrist or ankle bracelet;
  • Ordering the juvenile to attend counseling or education programs;
  • Placing the juvenile with a relative, foster parent, or in a group home; or
  • Probation

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, juvenile crime has been decreasing since the early 1990s. Nationally, in 2009, there were 5,804 arrests for every 100,000 youths, aged 10 through 17. That was a 36 percent decrease from the amount of juvenile arrests in 1996.

In Baltimore, Maryland, only 3,464 juveniles were arrested in 2011, which was a 58 percent decrease from the 8,147 juveniles arrested in 2007. Juvenile shootings and homicides have also decreased, as well as the amount of juveniles who are skipping school, dropping out of school, or being suspended.

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