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Juvenile Court System | 5 Steps Involved in the Juvenile Court Unit

The Juvenile Court Services Unit provides supervision and services to minors from ages 10 to 17 years that have been adjudicated delinquent by the Juvenile Court. The goal of supervision in Juvenile Court Services is to assist children in meeting the requirements of supervision and return them to an orderly and productive life in the community. The system and consequences are designed to change future behavior through various treatment and programs. The juvenile and adult systems are different, and it is important the parent and minor should know the process through which they are about to embark.

1. Intake & Investigation

Juvenile Intake serves as a “gatekeeper” to formal involvement by District Attorney and Juvenile Court when an accusation has been made that a child has broken a criminal law. The complaint is initially reviewed, and then it is decided whether it is suitable for informal action or petition to Juvenile Court.

Juvenile Intake may develop a written agreement if they feel the community and child alike could benefit from it. Nevertheless, the District Attorney can still disagree with the informal action and file a petition.

2. Petition & Arraignment

After the petition has been filed, the District Attorney has 20 days to review it and decide if it is reliable and serious enough for prosecution in the Juvenile Court. A copy of the petition is sent to the child and parents with a date for them to appear in court for formal charging (arraignment). The parents can either hire a private attorney, or they will be appointed a public defender.

If the child says the accusations are not true, a date for a pretrial hearing will come.

3. Pretrial & Trial

The Defense Attorney and District Attorney will discuss the settlement of the complaint prior to the pretrial. If an agreement has not been made, the next step is a trial at a different date. The final decision is made by a judge, as juveniles are not entitled to a jury trial.

4. Disposition

If the judge finds the accusations to be true, or the child admits to it, the next step is the final hearing (disposition).  The Disposition Hearing is set within 30 days. If the child is in custody, it is set in 10 days. The hearing determines what services the child will be provided with along with other rehabilitation types needed to protect the public.

The child and parent(s) meet with a caseworker from the Juvenile Court System prior to the Disposition meeting. The caseworker gathers information about the family and child through interviews with them personally as well as the school, police authorities, or therapists. This caseworker then writes a Disposition Court report reviewing this information and makes a recommendation for disposition for the hearing.

At the Disposition Hearing, the judge decides living arrangements for the child and the Rules of Supervision the child must follow.

5. Disposition Alternatives

The judge decides the least restrictive placement necessary for the child to protect the public. If the child is to remain at home, there are various rules they must follow. The judge may also order certain things he feels will be beneficial to the child such as counseling, special training or an education program, restitution for the victim, community based supervision program, school attendance, community service work, or electronic monitoring.

There are consequences if the rules are not followed:

  • Electronic monitoring
  • House arrest
  • Community service work
  • Short-term detention

If your child has been charged with a crime, it is important to obtain a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. At Hart Law Office, we have the experience necessary to guide your family through this difficult situation. Contact us for a free consultation.

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