Criminal laws that pertain to individuals who are not old enough and cannot be held responsible for their acts come under the code of juvenile law. Most countries have set a standard age for the accountability of criminal activities and according to Virginia’s Juvenile Law, perpetrators who are under the age of 18 are referred to as ‘juveniles’.
The State of Virginia has dedicated an entirely different judiciary system for juveniles, which is a part of a higher justice system. The adult justice system is designed to address the criminals by inflicting penalties and fines in order to prevent the individual from committing the crime again. However, the juvenile justice system in Virginia works differently, as it incorporates restorative and rehabilitative services to rectify such issues in juveniles and aid in their positive development. The main aim is to prevent juveniles from committing such acts in the future. If, however, a juvenile has been convicted of a serious crime, the juvenile court might transfer them to the adult court.
According to the Code § 16.1-278.7 of Juvenile Justice, “Only a juvenile who is adjudicated as a delinquent and is 11 years of age or older may be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice. In cases where a waiver of an investigation has been granted pursuant to subdivision A 14 or A 17 of § 16.1-278.8, at the time a court commits a child to the Department of Juvenile Justice the court shall order an investigation pursuant to § 16.1-273 to be completed within 15 days. No juvenile court or circuit court shall order the commitment of any child jointly to the Department of Juvenile Justice and to a local board of social services or transfer the custody of a child jointly to a court service unit of a juvenile court and to a local board of social services. Any person sentenced and committed to an active term of incarceration in the Department of Corrections who is, at the time of such sentencing, in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice, upon pronouncement of sentence, shall be immediately transferred to the Department of Corrections.”
The Arrangement of Juvenile Justice System in Chesterfield, Virginia
The juvenile justice system in Chesterfield comprises of the following agencies:
- Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts (J&DR)
- Detention facilities
- Law Enforcement Agencies
- Restorative Sanctions
- Juvenile Offenders Program
How the Juvenile Justice System Works
As soon as an offense has been reported, the juvenile has officially entered the system. Whether it is a minor offense, such as violation of traffic rules, or a major offense, an agent from the law enforcement agency may summon the court.
When the case has reached the court, the respective officer will file a petition and take action against the offender – it could be a formal or informal action.
If the action taken is informal, it may comprise of counseling services or a corrective facility is referred to the juvenile to alleviate the charges and focus on rectifying the child’s behavior.
If the action taken is formal, the respective officer has to choose between releasing the child to their parents or detaining them and keeping them in custody. This depends entirely on the nature of the crime committed by that individual and the risk that juvenile poses to the community and themselves.