We often come across the words like Juvenile justice, juvenile offenders, juvenile delinquency and juvenile crime, etc. while reading newspapers, articles, or hearing a news bulletin, but at the back of our minds we are not absolutely able to distinguish amongst such analogous words. This often leads to misunderstanding the lexicon of the matter related to it.
Although, it is quite acceptable if a layman does not know the differences but if we belong to the fraternity of forensics, police, or law; these words are of great importance to us and conceptual clarity is a must to solve the cases related to Juveniles with utmost credibility.
Juvenile’s Meaning In The Laws
Juvenile meaning in the Indian constitution is a child below the age of 18. So under the Indian Laws, Section 2(k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000; “Juvenile” or “Child” is as a person who has not completed the eighteenth year of age.
In accordance with the law, a juvenile is defined as a person who is not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In most of the states and on a federal level, this age threshold is set at 18 years. In Wyoming, a juvenile is a person under the age of 19.
In some states, a juvenile is a person under the age of 17, and in Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina, a juvenile is a person under the age of 16. These age definitions are significant because they determine whether the young offender will appear in adult court or juvenile court.
A ‘juvenile’ refers to an individual who is legally able to commit a criminal offense owing to being over the minimum age of criminal responsibility, but who is under the age of criminal majority when a person is legally considered an adult. The minimum age of criminal responsibility varies internationally between 6 and 18 years, but the age of the criminal majority is usually 18 years.
In some cases, individuals older than 18 years may be heard in a juvenile court, and therefore will still be considered juveniles; indeed, the United Nations (UN) defines ‘youth’ as between 15 and 24 years of age. The term ‘child delinquents’ has been used in reference to children below the age of 13 who have committed a delinquent act, although elsewhere ‘children’ are often defined as being under 18 years of age.
Before the 19th century, children were generally considered to be young adults, and they were expected to behave accordingly. Children over the age of 7 years who were accused of crimes were prosecuted in adult court.
If convicted they could be confined in an adult prison. By the 19th century, most states had created separate work farms and reform schools for convicted children, but some states still sent children to adult prisons. Juveniles are not always rehabilitated in prisons because after interacting with other criminals they often emerge as worst person and much prone to commit further crimes due to increased criminal knowledge.
‘Delinquency’ implies conduct that does not conform to the legal or moral standards of society. Therefore, it encompasses an enormous range of behaviors that are subject to legislation differing from one jurisdiction to another, and are subject to changes in the law over time. In the simplest terms, Juvenile delinquency is a criminal offense committed by a young person or say, a Juvenile.
Some of the most common reasons that lead these children to the path of delinquency are lack of education, lack of communication, lack of finances, broken family, lack of social and moral training, wrong peer group, substance abuse, exposure to media violence, etc. It is often observed that male adolescents are more likely to become offenders as compared to females.
Individual psychological or behavioral risk factors that may make offending more likely include low intelligence, impulsiveness or the inability to delay gratification, aggression, lack of empathy, and restlessness. Juvenile delinquents are often diagnosed with different disorders. Around 6-16% of male teens and 2-9% of female teens have a conduct disorder. A conduct disorder can develop during childhood and then manifest itself during adolescence.
Prevention is necessary for such children with conduct disorder. Firstly, identification of such juveniles and then providing them with the required treatment is of utmost importance. These adolescents become habitual offenders if not timely stopped from committing offenses. Moreover, the most effective way to prevent juvenile delinquency has indubitably been to assist children and their families from the very beginning.
Delinquency Prevention is the wide term for all efforts aimed at preventing youth from getting involved in criminal, or other antisocial activities. Various governments are recognizing the importance of allocating resources for the prevention of delinquency. Prevention services include activities such as substance abuse education, treatment, family counseling, youth mentoring, parenting education, educational support, and youth sheltering.
A specific act committed in violation of the law is often termed as a ‘crime’. A juvenile crime can include a DUI arrest (driving in influence arrest), minor in possession, robbery, rape, murder, and any other crime that can be committed by an adult. Individuals under the age of 18 who commit these crimes are punished under juvenile law.
The Basic Distinction of Juvenile Delinquency And Juvenile Crime
Juvenile crime means a specific act committed in violation of the law, whereas Juvenile delinquency means misconduct as a whole which is quite broad in nature from not-so-serious offenses to very serious and violent offenses.
The misconduct or less serious offense if would have been committed by an adult rather than a juvenile then they must not have got in trouble for it. But if in contrast is committed by a Juvenile it would be treated as troublesome behavior and as a delinquent act. For e.g: truancy from school, running away from home, use of illicit substances like alcohol, sexual activity, etc.
Furthermore, the more serious offenses such as rape, murder, robbery, etc. are troublesome in nature for both juveniles and adults and lead them to different sets of punishment if found guilty based on laws for adults such as IPC, CrPC, IEA, etc. and laws under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 for juveniles.
Juveniles are sent to shelter homes or correctional homes rather than Prisons for adults and also their cases are heard in Juvenile courts.
Ergo, the only difference between a “Criminal act or crime” and an “act of Juvenile delinquency” is the language used to describe it. Juveniles cannot commit crimes in the eyes of law. They commit delinquent acts that would be considered crimes if committed by an adult. So, the course and gravity of punishment for criminal offenses differ for the Juveniles from that of an adult offender.