Finding Your Way through the Juvenile Court Process
Juvenile offender cases may include several "hearings" before a Juvenile Court judge. Each hearing has a specific purpose. The list below describes the most common Juvenile Court hearings. Depending on the case, a youth may not be required to appear at all of these hearings or may be called to appear at a hearing not included in the list below.
Detention/First Appearance Hearing
This is the first hearing for a youth who is in detention on investigation of a new charge. At this hearing, the court must determine whether enough evidence exists to believe the youth was involved in the crime. This is not the trial. The youth will have an attorney at this hearing. The court decides whether to release or keep the youth in detention. If the Prosecuting Attorney's Office does not file charges within 72 hours, the youth will be released. Charges can still be filed later and the youth will receive notice in the mail to attend an arraignment hearing.
This is where the Prosecuting Attorney's Office formally notifies your child that criminal charges have been filed. The youth's attorney will help him or her decide whether to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The court will set the next court date and could order the youth to follow certain instructions.
Your child must wait after court to receive a copy of the court order. Your child also should report to Probation Services to meet their Juvenile Probation Counselor (JPC).
Usually the second hearing in the court process for a youth with criminal charges. Case setting hearings can take between two and four hours. The juvenile can decide to plead guilty and go to a sentencing hearing or plead not guilty and go to a fact-finding hearing (a trial).
Before you leave, the attorney will give you a copy of a court order setting your next court date. Make sure you have spoken with a Juvenile Probation Counselor.
This is when the prosecutor and the youth's attorney will question witnesses on the details of the crime your child has been charged with. The judge (not a jury) decides whether the youth is guilty or not guilty based on the law and the testimony.
Trials can last more than one day. If the judge decides that the youth is guilty, he/she will have to return for a Disposition Hearing.
Disposition hearings occur when a person has pleaded guilty or been found guilty at trial. The judge will review the case and hear from all parties in the case as needed and then sentence the youth. If the youth is put on probation, he/she will be sent to a new Probation Counselor. When sentenced, a juvenile will usually go directly to detention.
Restitution means paying the victims back for losses due to your child's crime. Your child will receive a payment packet from the Probation Counselor describing how much to pay, as well as when and where to send payments. The full amount must be paid, even after the youth turns 18.
If your child has been accused of not obeying the court's orders while on probation, a Modification Hearing will be set. The judge will hear evidence from all sides to determine if a violation occurred. The judge decides what steps should be taken.