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Juvenile Probation: How Does It Work?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Even the hardest, most jaded juvenile offender looks out of place in a jail. Juveniles are children. Their minds don't mature properly until their early twenties. So, why do we put children in jail? An Arkansas study found that youths who were previously incarcerated for a crime were 13.5 times more likely to commit another crime.

A better method of dealing with young offenders is juvenile probation. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 61% of cases involving delinquent youths were granted probation instead of detention.

Here is what you need to know about juvenile probation:

What Does Probation Entail?

What probation can entail varies from county to county and probation program to probation program.

Probation usually focuses more on making youths better citizens through mentoring, community service, and other rehabilitative programs, rather than just punishing them for their crimes. In some counties, juveniles may even be placed on 24 hour house arrest with breaks to go to school or do community service.

Who Gets Probation?

Most juveniles involved with the criminal system are non-violent offenders. They are often arrested for shoplifting, vandalism, or possession of alcohol. For these offenders, jail is often too harsh a sentence. Many judges will prefer to sentence a non-violent juvenile to probation rather than to jail. Even when a juvenile commits a violent crime, judges can be hesitant to choose jail over probation.

Take the case of Ethan Couch, of Texas, for example. He is more famously known as the kid who suffers "affluenza." Couch, 16-years-old at the time, drove while intoxicated and killed four people. Couch plead guilty to the charges of intoxicated manslaughter. The prosecutors wanted Couch to be sentenced to 20 years in state prison. Dr. G. Dick Miller, who testified at trial for Couch, argued that the teen has a better chance of becoming a fully functional citizen in rehab center than in jail. The judge agreed and sentenced Couch to 10 years of probation and therapy in a rehab center.

When Is Probation Used?

We often think of probation as a sentencing method used after a trial.

However, juvenile probation can also be implemented before trial as well. In many cases, a juvenile offender who admits to wrongdoing can be placed on probation before ever going to trial. If the juvenile complies with the conditions of probation, the charges against him may then be dropped, and the juvenile will not have to go to court.

If your child has been arrested, and you want to pursue probation instead of incarceration for your child, an experienced criminal defense attorney might be able to help.

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