Crimes committed by minors under the age of 18 in Utah are handled exclusively by juvenile court, with one major exception. In cases involving serious crimes where the minor is 14 years of age or older, the prosecutor may elect to file charges in the adult district court. Should that happen, the minor’s attorney can ask the judge to transfer the case to juvenile court where punishments are generally less severe; depending on the circumstances, such request may be granted by the judge.
Technically juvenile court is a civil court, not a criminal court with the stated purpose of rehabilitation rather than punishment. Sentencing guidelines in juvenile court are different and less punitive than sentencing guidelines in adult court. Unlike adult court where punishments often include jail and substantial fines, sanctions for most juvenile offenses generally involve restitution, community service, driver license restrictions or suspensions, counseling and treatment. However, like any other court, juvenile court sanctions are proportionate to the severity of the criminal act. More serious crimes may result in probation (supervision), home detention, community placement or detention in a secure facility for minors. In aggravated cases or where the youth is a chronic offender, transfer to the adult criminal system.Juvenile crimes usually fall under two categories. Status crimes are only crimes because of the age of the offender. Typically these crimes involve underage drinking, tobacco use and curfew violations. Juvenile Delinquent crimes are illegal acts that are always crimes, regardless of the age of the offender.
The most common crimes committed by juveniles are:
Violation of curfews
Possession or use of alcohol or marijuana
Underage tobacco use
Assault and Battery
Serious Criminal Acts that qualify minors 14 years and older to be charged in adult court under the Serious Youth Offender Law (SYOL) include but are not limited to the following felonies:
Aggravated sexual assault
2nd or subsequent felony conviction involving use of a dangerous weapon
Felony offense while in a secure detention facility