I’m a juvenile but I lied about my age and said I was an adult. What can I do now?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 10, 2020

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State law dictates that a juvenile offender under age 18 must be dealt with in the juvenile justice system. In most states, from the moment a juvenile is arrested, pre-trial services representatives are assigned to the case to investigate him, his background, his education, his mental and physical health and his prior record, in order to provide a judge with information for an appropriate disposition. So, when you are arrested and have lied about your age, it is unlikely that your “lie” will go undiscovered. Once it is revealed that your case, filed as an adult one, actually concerns a juvenile defendant, it will not be difficult to have it transferred to the juvenile justice system.

Advantages of Juvenile Court Over Adult Court

There are many reasons why you would want your case tried in juvenile and not in adult court. First, juveniles are kept segregated from more hardened adult populations. Additionally, while juveniles are not entitled to bail, there are various forms of detention, short of a prison cell, that can be used for custody purposes prior to trial, such as community-based shelters, electronic monitoring, in-home detention and reporting pre-trial probation. Moreover, most states have rules stipulating that a juvenile case should come to trial much more quickly than a case involving an adult for the same offense.

With respect to disposition (called sentencing in adult court), the emphasis is more on rehabilitation, not punishment or retribution as it would be in the adult system. The juvenile court’s jurisdiction extends only until the offender’s 21st birthday. Finally, in many states, juvenile court records are sealed and can be expunged, even when there is a conviction, at the appropriate time.

Getting Help

If you are a juvenile who was arrested as an adult, you should immediately get an attorney and tell your attorney the truth. Your lawyer will then take the right steps to get your case into the juvenile justice system. 

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