Juvenile crime is a serious concern, with those under the age of 18 accounting for more than 424,000 arrests in 2020 according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. When a juvenile gets convicted of drug possession, it not only affects them immediately but can also have a serious impact on their future.
In Louisiana, the laws are strict and a drug possession charge can lead to severe penalties.
Understanding the juvenile justice system
In Louisiana, the juvenile justice system differs significantly from the adult criminal system. The primary goal of the juvenile system is rehabilitation rather than punishment. However, the courts strive to instill a sense of responsibility in juveniles and to deter them from engaging in criminal behavior in the future.
Determining penalties for drug possession
Penalties for juvenile drug possession depend on factors such as the type and quantity of the drug, the juvenile’s age and whether the juvenile has any previous criminal record. Possession of certain types of drugs, like marijuana, may result in less severe penalties, while possession of other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, may attract stricter punishment.
For first-time offenders, penalties might include mandatory drug education programs, community service, probation or even confinement in a juvenile detention center. For repeat offenders or those caught with large quantities of drugs, the penalties might be harsher.
Effect of drug possession on a juvenile’s future
With a drug possession charge on their record, a person may have difficulties getting into college, securing a job or even finding housing. Some colleges and employers may ask about past criminal records, and a drug charge can be a major red flag. Moreover, having a drug charge on one’s record can lead to a loss of certain rights and privileges, like the ability to receive certain types of government aid.
However, Louisiana law allows for the expungement of a juvenile’s criminal record once they turn 18 if they meet certain criteria. Expungement means the removal of all records of arrest and conviction, effectively giving the juvenile a fresh start.
The penalties for the serious charge of drug possession are harsh and can have lasting consequences, even for juveniles. Education, prevention and having a solid support system in place can help young people stay away from illegal substances and avoid possible penalties.