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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Sentencing Options in Juvenile Cases

Sentencing Options in Juvenile Cases


One of the primary goals of a juvenile sentence is to decrease the alarmingly-high recidivism rate. About 80 percent of convicted juvenile offenders are rearrested within three years. The much-criticized revolving door justice system is hard on everyone, including the state, offenders, their victims, and their families. Most juvenile defendants agree to plead guilty, usually to receive a reduced sentence. They usually have some input over the method of punishment as well.

A Leesburg criminal defense lawyer can often obtain a substantially reduced sentence, as well as reduced charges, if the state’s evidence is weak. The evidence is weak a lot. Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. Various procedural defenses, such as Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations, could apply as well. Courts have been consistently clear that children have the same Constitutional rights as adults.


Jail time, or more specifically a sentence in a secure juvenile lockup facility, is only a possibility in a few extreme cases. Usually, juvenile defendants who go to jail are convicted of violent offenses and have at least one violent offense on their records.

Incarceration has a number of drawbacks that we don’t need to detail here. Jail time also has some hidden consequences, like a brain injury.

Lockup increases the production of “fight or flight” hormones. Since neither flight nor fight is an option, the hormones build up. Prolonged exposure to these hormones could cause a serious brain injury.

But, hear us out. A brief period of incarceration could benefit everyone involved, especially the defendant and his/her family.

A brief period of incarceration might be a better option than an extended period of probation. Quite frankly, some people simply aren’t good candidates for probation. They have issues with authority or difficulties being at certain places at certain times. These individuals usually cannot successfully complete probation, which means they’ll probably go to jail anyway.

Furthermore, although the “scared straight” effect has been exaggerated, it does exist. A brief stint in jail often convinces people to seriously reconsider their life choices.

Finally, a brief incarceration period could favorably affect family dynamics. The child and the child’s caregivers get some time away from each other. As a result, the child’s post-incarceration environment is often better. More on that below.

At-Home Probation

Almost all juvenile defendants receive probation. Furthermore, almost all juvenile defendants complete probation at home. This seamless arrangement is much less stressful on a family.

However, it might not be ideal for a family. We mentioned some reasons above. Furthermore, if a troubled child returns to the same environment, that child will most likely get in trouble again.

A Leesburg criminal defense lawyer is a big help in these situations. Attorneys negotiate more favorable terms of probation, decreasing the likelihood of a probation revocation. Furthermore, attorneys can ask courts to terminate probation, eliminating the revocation risk altogether.

Halfway House

Group homes combine the best elements of incarceration with the best elements of at-home probation. Halfway houses remove children from troubled environments, involve the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” dynamic, and give children some freedom. So, in many cases, a group home is the ideal sentence option.

Work With a Compassionate Loudoun County Lawyer

There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. We routinely handle matters throughout Northern Virginia.



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