The juvenile justice system is designed and enforced differently than adult court. A child may enter the juvenile justice system after being arrested or in some cases after a referral by school personnel, crime victims, probation officers, or even parents. At Oracle Law Group, we provide each client with a knowledgeable defense attorney that for more than 20 years has been able to navigate his/her way through the complex procedures and in return ensure the ideal outcome.
A great deal of discretion is given to law enforcement when deciding how to proceed after arresting a juvenile. The officer in charge of the case may decide to redirect the matter out of the system into an alternative program. This decision is often made after talking with the juvenile, the parents of the juvenile, and the victim. Any prior incidences the juvenile had with the law will also be reviewed and considered by the officer. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that nearly one-quarter of all juveniles arrested have their cases handled entirely by law enforcement without any referral to court.
Most juvenile arrests result in court. An experienced juvenile defense attorney is your best opportunity at effectively navigating through the juvenile justice system and skillfully combating any juvenile crime charge being faced. Approximately half of all juvenile cases referred to court are handled informally within the court system.
Most of the informally processed cases are dismissed from court without any action being taken. In other cases, the juvenile will agree to follow a set of specific conditions for a period of time and these conditions are typically outlined in a written agreement. That agreement may include the following conditions:
- Victim restitution
- Paying the victim for property damaged by the juvenile
- School attendance and satisfactory grades in school
- Drug or other types of counseling
- Community service, or a curfew
A juvenile is typically offered an informal disposition only if the juvenile admits to committing the act that caused the referral to juvenile court. A probation officer will often monitor the juvenile’s compliance with the agreement.
In some states, a juvenile may not enter into an agreement disposing of his or her case without first consulting an attorney. Seeking the counsel of an experienced Phoenix juvenile defense attorney at Oracle Law Group is your best chance at understanding the agreement being presented and negotiating the best agreement possible.
The case will be dismissed if all of the conditions of the agreement are met by the juvenile. If the juvenile fails to meet the conditions set forth, his or her case will be referred for formal processing. The case will proceed as it would have if there had been no agreement, or informal processing.
If the case is handled formally in juvenile court, the prosecuting authority will file one of two types of petitions: a delinquency petition that requests an adjudicatory hearing (trial), or a petition requesting a hearing on whether the case should be transferred to criminal court. A delinquency petition sets out the allegations against the juvenile, and requests the court to find the youth delinquent. In most states, a finding that a child is delinquent will make him or her a ward of the court.
After the delinquency petition is filed, an adjudicatory hearing is scheduled where witnesses are called and the facts of the case are presented. In nearly all adjudicatory hearings, the judge determines whether the juvenile was responsible for the offense alleged in the petition. Note that in some states, the juvenile has the right to a jury trial. A delinquency hearing is serious and has great deal at stake for the juvenile.
Most juvenile sentences, sometimes referred to as dispositions, involve some sort of supervised probation. The U.S Department of Justice states that in 1998, formal probation was the most severe punishment ordered in 58% of juvenile cases. A probation order for the juvenile often contains additional requirements such as:
- Drug counseling
- Weekend confinement in a juvenile detention center
- Community service
- Restitution to the victim
Probation may be ordered for a specified period, or could be open-ended, and greatly depends on the juvenile’s behavior and progress. Review hearings are held to monitor the juvenile’s progress. After all of the conditions of probation have been met, the judge terminates the case.
Residential placement or confinement in a juvenile correctional facility is another possible disposition. In 1998, juvenile courts ordered residential placement in 26% of the cases. Residential commitment may be set for a specific or indeterminate time period, but a juvenile may not be held in the juvenile justice system past a certain age. The correctional facility may be a secure, prison-like environment, or resemble an unlocked environment. In many states, when the judge commits a juvenile to the state agency that oversees corrections, the agency determines where the juvenile will be placed and when the juvenile will be released. In other states, the judge will have control over the type of facility and length of stay for the juvenile. In these situations, review hearings are held to assess the juvenile’s progress.
In most states, a juvenile court disposition is confidential and juvenile files are not available for examination by anyone. In some states, exceptions may be made for juveniles adjudicated delinquent for certain types of offenses.
A child involved in the juvenile justice system can be faced with many of the same challenges an adult could face in the same situation. The child has the same, and sometimes an even greater need for legal representation by an experienced counsel. To make sure your child has competent counsel, turn to an experienced and knowledgeable Phoenix juvenile defense attorney at Oracle Law Group When your child’s freedom and future are on the line, experience counts.