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When can your child wind up in court for juvenile delinquency?

Adolescence and young adulthood are difficult experiences for many people. If your child is like most teens, they will probably make a few mistakes and try breaking a few rules. They could do something that puts them at risk physically or legally.

Often, teenage mistakes result only in parental discipline, broken hearts or mild injuries. However, if the police catch your child doing something wrong, like driving without a license, drinking alcohol or experimenting with drugs, your child might face life-altering consequences.

In Iowa, those who are not yet adults can wind up arrested and sent to court for juvenile delinquency. When might your child be at risk of such consequences?

Juvenile delinquency is a broad term for adolescent rule-breaking

Iowa has a slightly different approach to juvenile justice than many other states. Those under the age of 18 accused of breaking the law won’t necessarily face specific criminal charges. Instead, they will go to court to face allegations of juvenile delinquency.

Someone accused of juvenile delinquency will not have a trial by jury but rather adjudication by a juvenile court judge. The judge will decide if the child has committed a delinquent act.

If the courts adjudicate a youth to be a delinquent child, they could wind up in a juvenile detention center, a residential treatment facility or a state training school. Sometimes, the youth involved can stay at home while completing terms set by the court.

While juvenile delinquency may not be as damaging as a specific criminal offense, it can still limit your child’s options in the future. Helping them defend themselves can be part of teaching them to learn from this mistake.