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SIMMS SHOWERS LLP Leesburg & Loudoun County Attorney
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How Does Virginia Address Juvenile Criminal Offenses?


The Commonwealth of Virginia operates a special system for juvenile offenses. If the criminal offenders are under 18 years old, then they may qualify for the juvenile justice system in Virginia. Recognizing the young age of juvenile offenders, this system has separate procedures, facilities, and programs than the adult criminal justice system.

The juvenile justice system does not emphasize punishment, instead placing a high value on rehabilitation. From a societal standpoint, the juvenile justice system attempts to minimize the impact of juvenile offenses and convert those offenders into law-abiding citizens.

Key Terms for Adult and Juvenile Justice Systems

According to a breakdown by the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, the adult and juvenile justice systems have different terminology to describe the same concept. For example:

  • The adult justice term of crime is referred to as offense in the juvenile justice system;
  • The adult justice term of arrest is referred to as take into custody in the juvenile justice system;
  • The adult justice term of file charges is referred to as petition in the juvenile justice system;
  • The adult justice term of trial is referred to as adjudicatory hearing in the juvenile justice system;
  • The adult justice term of found guilty is referred to as found delinquent in the juvenile justice system;
  • The adult justice term of sentencing is referred to as disposition in the juvenile justice system;
  • The adult justice term of jail is referred to as detention in the juvenile justice system; and
  • The adult justice term of parole is referred to as aftercare in the juvenile justice system.

Potential Dispositions for Juvenile Offenders

As established in Code of Virginia 16.1-278.8, the courts have wade latitude to determine potential dispositions for juvenile offenses. While each case is completely unique, the Virginia courts can generally issues any of the following dispositions to a juvenile offender.

  • Delay or dismiss the disposition for good behavior;
  • Require or limit certain conduct by the juvenile or their guardian(s);
  • Instruct the juvenile or their guardians to complete treatment programs or counseling;
  • Place the juvenile in detention facility or require a period of aftercare;
  • Require the juvenile to pay up to $500 in fines;
  • Revoke, suspend, or prevent issuance of a driver’s license;
  • Order the juvenile to pay restitution or damages;
  • Institute a community service requirement for the juvenile; or
  • Change the custody arrangement, placing the juvenile with the Department of Juvenile Justice, family relative, or child support agency.

Trying a Juvenile Offender as an Adult

Code of Virginia 16.1-269.1 provides a specific exception to the juvenile justice system. If the offender is at least 14 years old — and they committed a qualifying felony, such as a violent crime — then the offender may be tried as an adult.

Let Us Help You with Your Case

If you or a loved one are dealing with the juvenile justice system in Virginia, it is exceedingly beneficial to reach out to a criminal defense lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers LLP, servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, understand how to navigate the adult and juvenile justice systems. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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Simms Showers LLP is conveniently located two blocks from the Loudoun County Courthouse. Our criminal defense firm offers a free phone consultation for criminal or personal injury cases. Se habla español. Call Simms Showers LLP for quality legal counsel today at 703-997-7821 or contact us online.

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