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Texas Juvenile System: When does juvenile law apply and how is it different than adult criminal law

Updated on August 18, 2014

When Does Juvenile Law Apply

Texas juvenile law applies in cases where a crime or offense is committed by an individual age 17 or under. The juvenile system and laws are set forth in the Texas Family Code. The adult criminal system and laws are set forth in the Texas Penal Code and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

Key Differences

  • Juvenile law only applies in cases where the offender is age 17 or under. Offenses committed by individuals age 18 or older are considered adult crimes and are covered by Texas criminal law. In the juvenile system, age determines the jurisdiction of a juvenile court. In the adult criminal system, the type of offense determines the jurisdiction of a criminal court.
  • Each system has is its own distinct purpose. The main goal of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate the offender while the purpose of the criminal system is to punish and deter. It is for this reason adult crimes have harsher punishments than juvenile offenses.
  • Generally speaking, a juvenile’s criminal record is eligible for expunction (sealing of records). In contrast, an adult criminal record is only eligible for expunction or non-disclosure in very limited circumstances.
  • Juvenile court proceeding are informal and held privately whereas criminal court proceedings are formal and open to the public. The main objective of a juvenile court proceeding is to do what is in “the best interest of the child” while in a criminal court the objective is to determine a punishment that fits the crime.
  • The identification of a juvenile offender may not be released to the media but information about an adult offender is considered public information.

© 2012 Bahin Ameri


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    • profile image

      Marian 3 years ago

      Learned a lot about the difference between juvenile law and criminal law. There are certainly a lot of between them and you described them very nicely. :)

      - Marian from

    • Julianne Burkett profile image

      Julianne 4 years ago from Dallas, TX

      Excellent hub with some great info!