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Understanding Juvenile Drug Possession Laws

Juvenile drug possession occurs when any person under the age of 18 knowingly possesses a controlled substance without a legal reason to do so. Minors could be subject to harsh penalties when found guilty of drug possession — although these cases are generally not handled in standard trial courts. Instead, their cases are sent to the juvenile court system.

While the crime of drug possession is defined in the same way for adults and minors, minors are not usually subject to the same penalties, as juvenile courts have different ways of dealing with offenders. Potential penalties and requirements may include the following:

  • Counseling. Juvenile courts have a primary focus on rehabilitating young people. Counseling is often issued in hopes of helping teens see the error of their ways, educating them on drug use and preventing drug use from happening again in the future.
  • Probation. Juveniles on probation must comply with specific terms outlined by the juvenile court. The minor will likely be ordered to regularly attend school, perform community service, maintain or find a job and participate in regular drug counseling or family counseling, along with other requirements as outlined by the court. The minor may also be required to regularly check in with a probation officer for a period of six months or more.
  • Diversion. Juveniles in diversion programs must meet similar obligations as minors on probation, but they are allowed to do so without having to formally appear in front of juvenile court. The charges are essentially dismissed after completion of the diversion program.
  • Detention. This is typically the most severe penalty for juvenile drug crimes. In rare cases, courts may order offending minors to detention, which could involve checking in to juvenile detention facilities, home confinement, placement in a juvenile home or placement with a foster family.

If you or your child has been charged with a drug crime in Pennsylvania, reach out to skilled and compassionate Reading criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.

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