A Guide to the Juvenile Justice System

An Offense is Committed

  • A juvenile offender can enter the justice system in a couple of ways. The first, and most common, is through a law enforcement agency. This happens when an offense occurs, such as a robbery or vandalism. The other, less likely way, is through alternative means. For instance, a school may file a complaint on a child for truancy if the child does not attend classes on a regular basis or a parent may file a complaint due to the child running away. Both of the aforementioned instances are status offenses, which are available exclusively to juveniles.

The Juvenile is Detained

  • A juvenile is never arrested, but detained. A detention occurs while the intake officer does her investigation into the offense that allegedly occurred.
    • When the investigation occurs, the intake officer has approximately 72 hours to make a decision as to whether there is probable cause to continue with the case. If there is not, the child must be relinquished to his parents.

The Case

  • Around half of the cases in the juvenile system are handled informally, meaning that the system works with the juvenile individually to determine an alternative form of rehabilitation over continuing the formal process.
    • Informal treatments can come in the form of victim impact panels, if the offense had a victim, restitution, cleaning up vandalism, counseling, or mandatory school attendance.
    • When cases are handled this way, it prevents a record being attached to the juvenile, further affecting their future.
    • Similar to probation for adults, if the juvenile does not strictly adhere to the alternative, informal rehabilitation, it can be revoked and they may have to have their cases adjudicated.
  • If there is not probable cause to continue with the case, the intake officer will release the juvenile and the case will be dismissed.
  • The cases that are not handled informally or dismissed move along in the process
    • Just like adults that have been arrested, juveniles have a right to make bail once they have received their charges, in order to leave the juvenile detention hall.
      • Legally, juveniles cannot be detained in the same place that adults who have been arrested are detained and must not be within sight or sound of adult inmates.

In the juvenile justice system, as opposed to the adult criminal justice system, the aim is to rehabilitate the child from his deviant behaviors, for both society and the betterment of the child.

  • The formal hearing, where the juvenile hears the offenses he has been charged with, is kept private, with the juvenile’s name usually being kept anonymous for their protection.
  • When the formal hearing goes on, it is to determine what would be in the best interests of juvenile
  • A formal hearing has two parts
    • Adjudicatory hearing
      • This hearing is where the judge hears all of the evidence that the prosecutor has against the juvenile.
      • Here, it is decided whether the juvenile actually committed the offense.
    • Dispositional hearing
      • At the dispositional hearing, the judge determines what the treatment should be for the juvenile, which is similar to the sentencing portion of an adult criminal trial.
      • Here, the defense is able to present evidence and witnesses as to influence the judge on the type of treatment that the judge will hand down to the juvenile

Treatments

  • If the judge finds that the juvenile did commit an offense, there are several treatment options available:
    • Releasing the child into the custody of his or her parents, without court supervision
      • This is the least intrusive option for the child, and is typically only assigned when a child commits a very minor act, such as larceny (petty theft)
    • Placing the child on probation
      • Probation would include the juvenile being assigned a probation officer and being given a list of acts to complete in order to stay out of the juvenile system’s formal treatment centers.
    • Committing the child to the Department of Juvenile Justice
      • This can come with a variety of options, from being placed in a group home to being admitted to a temporary residential treatment center to even being assigned to a school for children with behavioral problems.
    • Detaining the juvenile at a youth detention center for up to 90 days
      • This is most likened to the type of incarceration that adults experience when jailed for offenses.
    • Sending the juvenile to an outdoor program or boot camp
      • This is done to essentially “toughen” the juvenile up and instill discipline if the judge believes that what motivates the juvenile to commit crimes is his or her lack of discipline

The juvenile system can be tricky to navigate without competent legal help; let the Don Turner Legal Team help your juvenile. Call today for a free consultation at (770) 594-1777.

Top