Juvenile Justice Process


When juveniles (under 18 years of age) commit crimes, they may be taken into custody by a law enforcement officer. Depending on the type of crime, juveniles might be taken to a juvenile assessment center where they will be screened for detention. Depending on the charge and based on an assessment of risk to the public and the needs of the juveniles, they may be placed on any of three forms of detention status: home, non-secure or secure. If placed in secure detention they will be held in a secure facility until the court decides their case.

During the intake process, the Department of Juvenile Justice will review the charges and will make recommendations to the state attorney's office(SAO). If the SAO agrees, the charge can be handled without going to court and can be diverted to a community based program. Law enforcement can also divert a charge through a program called civil citation or teen court. If a juvenile successfully completes the diversion program, then the charges are generally dismissed.

The State Attorney's Office may decide to formally charge the juvenile by filing a petition in the juvenile court. If the charge is especially serious, and if the facts meet statutory guidelines, the SAO can file the charges directly in the adult court or take it before the grand jury for indictment.

Once the SAO files a petition in the juvenile court, the case is set for an arraignment where the juvenile will enter a plea. If the juvenile pleads not guilty, then the case is set for an adjudicatory hearing before the juvenile judge. An adjudicatory hearing is like a trial but the judge determines the guilt; there is no jury. If the judge finds that the juvenile committed the offense, the court can then either adjudicate the juvenile delinquent or withhold adjudication.

When a juvenile is found to have committed a delinquent act the court will hold a disposition hearing to determine which sanctions to impose on the juvenile. The sanctions could range from community-based sanctions like probation and community services up to residential commitment.

Juveniles who are prosecuted as adults may be sentenced to adult or juvenile sanctions. After a hearing, the court will decide on the sentencing or disposition. Any juvenile who is prosecuted and sentenced as an adult, regardless of age, will be treated as an adult in any future criminal proceedings. However, juveniles who are prosecuted as adults but sentenced as juveniles keep their status as juveniles.

Bruce Colton, State Attorney