Juvenile justice: an overview

Juvenile justice is the area of criminal law applicable to persons not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In most states, the age for criminal culpability is set at 18 years. Juvenile law is mostly governed by state law, and most states have enacted a juvenile code. The main objective of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation rather than punishment. Juveniles can be transferred into adult court if the juvenile court waives or relinquishes its jurisdiction.

The stated principle of the act is to aid states and local communities in providing community-based preventative services to youths in danger of becoming delinquent, to help coach individuals in occupations providing such services and to provide technical assistance in the field. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act defines juvenile delinquency (any act that is otherwise a crime but is committed by someone less than 18 years of age) and sets rules by which state laws must comply with regard to juvenile court procedures and punishments.