When a juvenile commits a crime in Connecticut, there are two possible ways the case can be classified. Depending on several factors, including the nature of the offense, a juvenile can either be classified as a juvenile defendant, or as a youthful offender. While these two designations might seem interchangeable, they are not, and it is critical to understand the difference.
Juvenile defendants are, as one might expect, juveniles - people under the age of 18 who have committed an offense that the prosecutor determines should be prosecuted in juvenile court. They are referred to as juvenile delinquents, rather than defendants; Connecticut’s juvenile courts are much more focused on rehabilitation, especially for first offenders, as opposed to the adult court system that is focused more on punishment. The nature of the offense usually determines whether someone under 18 will be charged as a juvenile or as an adult.
Juvenile defendants are also more likely to be granted a non-judicial outcome in their case, meaning probation or pretrial diversion as opposed to a conviction and sentence. This may seem not harsh enough, for a young person who has allegedly committed a crime, but nonjudicial outcomes are not generally available for those who commit serious offenses. With nonviolent misdemeanors and violations, the state of Connecticut has decided to help young offenders learn rather than punish immediately....