Are Juvenile Cases Less Expensive Than Adult Criminal Cases?

Juvenile in HandcuffsWhile crimes come in all shapes and sizes, resulting in various penalties, the main difference between juvenile criminal cases and adult criminal cases is that the underlying rationales of the juvenile court systems are that youth are developmentally different from adults and that their behavior is malleable. Rehabilitation, treatment, and community protection are considered the main goals for juvenile delinquents.

On the other hand, rehabilitation is not considered the primary goal in the criminal justice system. Rather, criminal sanctions should be proportional to the offense. So deterrence is viewed as a successful result of punishment.


While the goals each case differs from one another, the costs associated with each process are quite similar. While there the crippling costs imposed on adults in the criminal justice system are well-documented, little light is shed on similar issues in the juvenile court system.

In many states throughout the nation, juvenile court fees are stiff. Families are billed for each day for each night their child spends in juvenile hall, for each day their child is on electronic monitoring, for each court-ordered drug tests, and for each month that their child is on probation, and a non-refundable fee to apply for record sealing, without any guarantee that the record will be sealed. With the addition of restitution and fines to the tab and the total amount owed becomes insurmountable debt.

When youth fail to pay restitution or fines, they remain on probation, acquiring further probation fees and more debt. Once juvenile probation is terminated, the debt is converted into a civil judgment, meaning that this civil judgment against them will cripple their credit score and hinder their ability to apply for college or loans.

As far as adult criminal cases, specifically in Georgia, defendants can be billed for room and board for jail and prison stays, a public defender, their own probation and parole supervision, and electronic monitoring devices. Since 2010, 48 states—including Georgia—have increased criminal and civil fees.

Another distinct similarity between the two is that impoverished individuals and families are the most affected. In adult cases, impoverished people sometimes go to jail when they fall behind paying these fees. In juvenile cases, families are pushed further into poverty.

If you have been arrested for a crime in Georgia, schedule a consultation with our low-cost attorneys in Atlanta at Justice Café today.

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