Ask most people and they will say that Juvenile Delinquency falls under criminal law because these are kids that have broken the law. Those people would be wrong. An experienced attorney in Juvenile Delinquency will tell you that this is actually a specialized area of family law. Why? Because the Juvenile Delinquency code is based upon rehabilitating the Juvenile in the most family-like setting and it works differently than when an adult violates a criminal statute or commits a criminal traffic offense.
Additionally, there are circumstances where Juveniles may be charged with a status offense. Status offenses include things that would not be crimes if someone was over the age of 18, such as truancy, leaving home without permission of a parent, underage drinking or curfew violation.
In a famous United States Supreme Court Decision, In re Gualt, 387 U.S.1 (1967), the Court determined that a Juvenile was entitled to the same due process rights as an adult criminal defendant, including both the right to an attorney and right to a trial or a Fact-finding hearing. And while Juveniles are entitled to the same rights and due process, the process itself is not the same and parents and their children should know the differences.
Juvenile cases are considered civil matters and therefore the rules of civil procedure apply to these cases. Whenever a young person is thrust into the realm of Court, it is a terrifying prospect for both kids and their parents/guardians. The risks can be substantial and parents and their child should know exactly what the child is charged with, and the consequences to a finding that the child committed a delinquent act.
Additionally, the Juvenile and the parent/guardian should know:
- Statutory time frames that the State has to act at each stage of the proceedings;
- The Juvenile’s rights and the Dispositional Alternatives the Judge can Order;
- Whether the Juvenile’s case is eligible for the State to seek a “waiver” for the Juvenile to be tried as an adult in adult court;
- Whether the Juvenile’s case can be a direct file to adult court;
- Are there any other options to resolving the charges without a trial or court hearing?
Many times, the Juvenile can remain in the home of the parent or guardian under certain terms and conditions. Strict adherence to the terms and conditions are necessary in order keep the child in the home. If the Juvenile violates the terms and conditions remaining in the home, then the court will detain the child and place him/her outside of the home.
Upon conclusion of a trial, if the Juvenile is found to have committed the charged delinquent act, the trial court will hold a dispositional hearing and enter a dispositional order. This is where Juvenile Law is significantly different that adult criminal law. There are no sentencing guidelines. Rather, the juvenile court has a wide range of services that it can order for a child and family to complete, which include:
- Detention in a county detention center or juvenile correctional facility
- Mental health or substance abuse treatment
- Loss of the Juvenile’s driving privileges
- Payment of Restitution
- Community Service
- Placement out of the Juvenile’s home in a foster home or residential facility
- Fees, including court fees, probation fees, administrative fees and monthly user fees.
Each child’s case is tailored to the child and his/her family situation. Effective advocacy and education at each stage of the proceedings can result in a much better outcome for the child.
Juvenile Justice System at a Glance
A case can come into the Juvenile Justice system in a number of ways including arrest of the Juvenile, a report of a crime that may have been committed, and referral from another agency or by the request of a parent. Depending on how the Juvenile becomes part of the Juvenile Justice System determines where they are at in the process. In a general sense the following steps are in place to ensure that the Juvenile’s rights are safeguarded:
- Preliminary inquiry meeting with Probation – when a referral is made from a parent or another agency, a probation officer may schedule or conduct a preliminary inquiry with the juvenile and parents to determine if Court intervention is necessary;
- Detention hearing – if a juvenile is arrested or detained, the juvenile court must hold a detention hearing within 48 hours of the arrest (not including weekends and holidays);
- Initial hearing – Juvenile is advised of the charges against then, their rights, and consequences.
- Fact-Finding hearing – Juvenile Trial and/or admission to offenses.
- Disposition hearing – the probation and/or services that the Juvenile and family will need to participate in.
Why Choose Us
At Trenna S. Parker Law Office, we have worked in the Juvenile Delinquency System for over 20 years. Trenna Parker served as Juvenile Public Defender from 2001 until 2019. Our offices care about the children that we are charged with defending and are committed to the zealous representation of those children accused of crimes.