Juvenile Cases




DETENTION HEARING (Out-of-Custody First Appearance): At the Detention Hearing an attorney is appointed to represent the child. Usually the court will also order the Probation Department to prepare a report which details the child's history at home and at school and will help determine whether court intervention in the child's life is necessary. If the matter is not resolved at that time, the case is usually calendared for a court date two weeks later called a Pre-Trial Conference.

PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCE: At the Pre-Trial Conference, after the youth has spoken with the attorney, the charges may be admitted or the case could be set for trial—called a Contested Jurisdiction Hearing in Juvenile Court.

CONTESTED JURISDICTION HEARING: At the Contested Jurisdiction Hearing, any necessary witnesses will be called and the lawyers will present arguments. The judge will decide whether the District Attorney has proven the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no right to a jury trial in juvenile court.

DISPOSITION HEARING: If a child admits the charges, or if the judge finds the charges true, a disposition hearing will be set, often the disposition hearing will be on that same day. At the disposition hearing the judge decides what must be done to rehabilitate the child. The judge could order the child to be returned home on probation, sent to a group or placement home, sent to the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center (called the Ranch), remain in Juvenile Hall, or in extreme cases, sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice (formerly known as CYA). In all juvenile cases, the courts try to consider the unique needs of the child and find ways to turn his of her life around—before it is too late. Counseling, education programs, or volunteer service might be ordered. Fees will be ordered, as well as restitution. The child may be assigned to a Probation Officer.

Juvenile Justice Court

The purpose of the Juvenile Justice Court is:

  • to protect the child
  • to give guidance,
  • to punish children who commit delinquent acts, and
  • to protect the community.

If a child becomes a ward of the court as a juvenile delinquent, the court will make orders so that the child and the community will be protected. As a ward of the juvenile justice court the child may be:

  • allowed to live at home under court supervision; or
  • placed outside of the home in an unlocked or locked facility, depending upon the child's age, the seriousness of the offense, and the child's history of delinquency.

If the offense with which the child is charged is serious, the District Attorney might seek to have the child treated as an adult.

Petition and other paperwork

The petition and other papers you may have received identify that the child is accused of having done certain delinquent acts. The petition does not prove anything, but it is important to know what the child is accused of having done. You have a right to receive a copy of the petition. Please read the petition carefully. The child's attorney can assist in explaining the charges and the basis for the charges.

Arresting Officer Options

In cases involving juveniles, the arresting officer may do one of five things:

  • Let the child go home to the parent or accompany the child home or back to the place of arrest and may maintain a record of the contact.
  • Refer the child to a community agency providing shelter, care, diversion, or counseling.
  • Require the child to return to the Police Department or Probation Department.
  • Give the parent and child a Notice to Appear, identifying what must be done and when.
  • Detain the child in Juvenile Hall ("In Custody"). If the child is detained, the officer must take immediate steps to notify the parent that the child is in custody and where the child is being held.

Probation Officer Options

One of three things may happen at the initial meeting with the Probation Officer:

  1. The Probation Officer can reprimand the child then let the child go home without getting the District Attorney, Alternate Defender, or Juvenile Court involved.
  2. The Probation Officer may offer the child a voluntary program instead of going to court. Generally, if the child successfully completes the program (for example, attending special classes or substance abuse counseling, performing community service, cleaning graffiti, or going to a youth or peer court) then the Juvenile Court does not need to become involved.
  3. The Probation Officer can refer the case to the District Attorney who will decide whether or not to file a petition. If the child is in custody, a petition must be filed within 48 hours. A court hearing must be held within 24 hours of the filing of the petition. The Alternate Defender's Office receives notice of the cases after the petition is filed.

NOTE: If the Juvenile Court does not become involved, the child will not be asked to admit the charges and will not accrue a record.

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