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What you should know about a juvenile vandalism charge

Vandalism is a common youth crime that ranges from breaking windows to graffiti tags or smashing mailboxes.

The law is clear and concise when it comes to defining the act. What is less clear are your legal options and the potential punishment for the crime. With juvenile crime, there is a wide range of discipline that's dependent on the crime but also on how you proceed legally.

What is vandalism and how will a minor be charged?

Vandalism is the intentional damage to property you don't own. It is the same crime whether you're above 18 years old or below, but you'll be charged differently based on your age. If your child is 18 years old, the punishment will have more lasting consequences than for a 17 year-old.

The punishment depends on the amount of damage. A $20 mailbox or $500 window will be treated differently than putting sugar in someone's gas tank or graffiti that requires sandblasting a surface and repainting it. Unless the damage is severe (in the thousands of dollars), a minor will be charged by the state according to his or her age.

How are juvenile crimes different than adult crimes?

While a juvenile offense is serious (and requires an attorney), minor crimes are handled in their own court system. Minors will not serve jail time and, in most cases, the punishment for vandalism is both monetary and through time spent serving community service and probation.

Because a minor performed the act, the parents may have to pay for costs and fees if the child cannot. Parents are also liable to civil action.

Possible punishment for vandalism includes:

  • Restitution. This is the repayment for repairs or replacement of the damaged property.
  • Fines. Atop restitution, a minor may be required to pay the court.
  • Probation. It's common for children to have regular meetings with a probation officer and to visit a counselor, perform community service, drug testing and other "good citizen" tasks for a period following sentencing.
  • Detention. In serious cases, a child may be sent to a juvenile detention center, for either weekend overnights or longer term.

What about the permanent record?

The juvenile legal system emphasizes rehabilitation, so it is possible to keep a conviction off your child's record with the right representation. There are different rulings such as adjudication, instead of conviction, which will help on future job applications.

Depending on severity, diversion may be offered. This is a form of probation where, if your child follows the program, the charges can be dropped and his record stays clean.

Other punishments will go on the record as official charges and will show on background checks in Kansas. In adulthood, a juvenile record can be expunged, which is a legal procedure to seal your juvenile record.

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