NAVIGATING JUVENILE COURT PROCEEDINGS
What happens at the initial court hearing?
When a young person is accused of committing a crime or a status offense (something that would not be illegal if done by adults such as school truancy, running away from home, curfew violations and incorrigibility) they must appear in juvenile court for an initial or preliminary hearing.
During that hearing the judge will review the information presented to him and then he or she will do one or more of the following things:
- Dismiss the case or deny authorization of the petition;
- Place the matter or case on a “consent calendar,” which is an informal process of court supervision;
- Place the case on the “formal calendar” and allow charges to move forward against your child
If your child’s case is dismissed:
The youth is free to go and there is no other formal court process to follow.
If your child’s case is placed on the consent calendar:
This means that your child’s case will be taken off the “formal calendar” and instead be handled through an informal process of court supervision. If the court and you agree to place your child’s case on the consent calendar, certain rights of your child will be waived including the formal notice of charges, right to an attorney at public expense, the right to a jury trial, and presumption of innocence and right to present witnesses among others.
After your child is placed on the consent calendar, the court will create a case plan. The case plan will outline the steps the court would like your child to take and the services and supports they must participate in. After your child successfully completes the plan, or does everything the plan outlines for them to do, the court will close the case and may destroy all records of the proceedings.
If your child’s case is diverted:
This means that the court referee ‘diverts’ or moves the case from the formal court system to a less formal process. This will keep the offense from being part of the youth's criminal record.
Several factors are taken into account when considering whether a case should be considered for diversion, including the nature of the offense, the youth’s age, any background problems leading to the offense, the youth’s character and conduct, and behavior in family and school settings.
Options for diversion can range from a warning from the court, requiring the youth to write an apology letter, participate in community service, pay restitution to the victim of the crime, behavioral counseling, and/or participating in youth court.
What happens if my child is charged and their case is placed on the formal calendar?
If your child is placed on the formal calendar that means that they are being formally charged with the crime and they will have to go through the formal court process.
Once your child is charged with an offense they have an opportunity to admit or deny the charges. A youth denying the charges against them is presumed innocent and may request a trial before a judge or jury.
What rights does my child have if there is a trial?
At trial, youth have the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, the right to confront witnesses testifying against them, the right to call witnesses, and the right to testify.
What happens if the court finds my child guilty?
If a youth is found guilty at trial, or admits to a crime, the court will then prepare to enter a “disposition,” which is like the sentencing stage in the adult court system.
The judge can require a youth to do a variety of things as a part of the disposition, including requiring that the young person:
- Be on probation in home with their parents, relatives or guardians with or without electronic or other monitoring, rules and guidelines;
- Participate in counseling, drug or alcohol treatment, anger management or educational classes;
- Do community service;
- Provide restitution, or pay back victims of their crime;
- Be sent to the Monroe County Youth Center to participate in the treatment program;
- Be waived into the adult court system for adult proceedings;
- Pay a crime victim rights assessment fee, and reimbursement of court- appointed attorney expenses and other court service expenses.
After these initial interviews are held, recommendations are made which will be considered at the dispositional hearing. During the dispositional hearing the judge will determine what should happen to the youth as a result of their delinquent behavior.
Key tips for parents/guardians:
- Make it clear to police and juvenile court personnel that you intend to be actively involved in the process and that you will work with them to insure an appropriate plan and positive outcome for your child.
- Provide copies of all documentation of your child’s mental and/or medical health history and share that information promptly with your child's probation officer;
- If you know that someone who has been a bad influence or a problem in your child’s life, let the probation officer know so they can help you address this issue.