Juvenile Terminology Basics

Despite the fact that most juvenile delinquency cases center upon what would otherwise be criminal law violations, the terminology used in the courtroom is somewhat different than what you hear in criminal matters. This is because “juvenile law” is a mixture of both criminal and family law principles and procedures. Here is a small sample of the words and terms you may hear in juvenile court and how they relate to “criminal law” terms. Though the context is similar, the terms have very distinct purposes and legal implications. ¬†For example, an adult is “arrested” while a juvenile is “taken into custody;” the subtle distinction is that legally children are not arrested, therefore, they may legally answer “no” on job applications asking if they have ever been arrested. Children are also not “convicted”; they are “adjudicated delinquent.”

Criminal Law Term Similar Juvenile Term
Arrest Taken into Custody
Guilty Did Engage in Delinquent Conduct
Not Guilty Did Not Engage in Delinquent Conduct
Criminal Offense Delinquent Conduct
Convicted (Guilt/Innocence) Adjudicated (Adjudication Phase)
Punishment Disposition
Information or Indictment Petition
Defendant Respondent
State Petitioner
Deferred Adjudication Deferred Prosecution (deferred adjudication does not exist in the juvenile code; however, deferred prosecution is the closest in concept)
Insanity Lack of Responsibility
Competency Fitness to Proceed
Bail or Bond *does not exist; juveniles are either released or detained
Pre-Trial Supervision PAT Supervision (Pre-Adjudication Team)
Arrest Warrant Directive to Apprehend

Other Juvenile Terms

“Stip” Stipulation or Judicial Confession from Plea Papers
Certification/Discretionary Transfer/Waiver of Jurisdiction Juvenile Court is Waiving Its Jurisdiction and Transferring the Case to Criminal Court; In other words, the child will stand trial as an adult
Determinate Sentence Sentencing option requiring grand jury approval for serious, violent offenses enumerated in statute
Juvenile Processing Office (JPO) Designated office for the warning, interrogating, or other handling of juveniles