The juvenile criminal system is quite different from the adult criminal system. While the general process is the same, the differences are a reflection of the focus of each system.
In the adult system, the focus is punishment, but in the juvenile system, the focus is on rehabilitation. Due to the different approaches, when a judge makes a decision in a juvenile case, he or she will not convict the minor. According to the Juvenile Law Center, a minor faces adjudication.
Adjudication is much like a conviction. The main difference comes after the judge makes a ruling. With adjudication, the minor will not face the same consequences or damages he or she would if it were a conviction.
The idea in the juvenile system is to do everything possible to stop a minor from reentering the system due to further criminal behavior. The court will not issue a traditional sentence in many cases. Instead, through adjudication, it will provide services and help to the minor to rehabilitate him or her and get the minor in a better situation to avoid such behavior in the future.
The State of Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice explains a minor will attend an adjudication hearing, which is the same as a trial in an adult criminal proceeding. Minors do not have a right to a jury, so a judge will handle the case.
During the hearing, the judge listens to testimony and considers the evidence. After hearing the case, the judge makes the decision to adjudicate or not.
While the differences between conviction and adjudication are slight, it is still something worth understanding as it has a great impact on the final outcome.