The Juvenile Justice Process

Although based on the adult criminal justice system, the juvenile justice process works differently. Juveniles can end up in court by way of arrest, truancy or for curfew violations or running away. A youth may also be referred to the juvenile court system by school officials or a parent or guardian for being continuously disobedient. The juvenile justice process involves several different steps including intake, detention, adjudication, disposition and aftercare following release from a juvenile correctional facility.

In this paper we will breakdown the numerous steps involved in the juvenile justice process as well as compared some processes to the adult justice process (terminology). The Juvenile Justice Process: A Breakdown of the System Courtesy of the Superior Court of California The Juvenile Justice Process: A Breakdown of the System Juvenile justice is the process of bringing minors to justice for their crimes. While laws and regulations regarding juvenile justice differ from state to state, there are many similarities. Who does America consider to be a Juvenile?

America considers a juvenile to be an individual who falls within a specified age range and is subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts. The word juvenile refers to a minor; anyone under the age of 18 in most states is considered to be a juvenile. What is a juvenile delinquent? A juvenile delinquent by text is someone under the legal age who is found guilty of committing a crime. Now, depending on the offense and its severity, the juvenile delinquents may not necessarily be sentenced as hard as an adult would be for committing the same crime. Juvenile courts were developed to be a place where minors go for trial in most cases.

This process is also known to change depending on the state and the severity of the crime. Let’s take a stroll down the path of the juvenile justice process. In most case, the first contact a juvenile has with the system is through police contact that is if they have been stopped by an officer. In other cases juveniles can end up in the court by way of truancy or for violating curfew laws or running away. A youth may also be referred to the juvenile court system by school officials or a parent. The juvenile justice process involves several different steps all leading toward justice and the rehabilitation of the juvenile.

Once a youth has been introduced to the justice system they are on the path to become labeled as a juvenile delinquent. First, if a juvenile is stopped by a police officer for a crime the officer will determine what to do with the juvenile. The officer can either release the juvenile with a warning or go as far as arresting the juvenile and referring them to the District Attorney’s office. Once the juvenile is in custody they go through a process called intake. It is at the intake stage that the prosecutor (DA) determines whether to refer the case to juvenile court; similar to what is known in the adult criminal justice system as prosecution.

It is at this stage that several factors are evaluated. The evidence is reviewed and the seriousness of the offense is considered along with whether or not the juvenile has a previous history with the juvenile court. After the evaluation and review of these factors a case may be dismissed, handled informally or the juvenile may be held in detention pending a formal hearing before a juvenile court judge. The prosecutor must file a petition to the courts within 48 hours or 72 hours depending on the actual charge.

If the juvenile was released then the prosecutor is not subjected to a deadline to file a petition. If the juvenile was held in detention pending a formal hearing it at this time a detention hearing will be held. The detention hearing generally happens the day after the petition was filed by the prosecutor. It is here where a judge will decide whether the current detention of the juvenile is justified and whether continued detention is warranted. The judge will decide one of two outcomes; release the juvenile, sometimes under the consideration of home supervision or to detain the juvenile for a rehearing.

If the juvenile is indeed detained he/she is subjected to a jurisdictional hearing. The jurisdictional hearing is a where the judge will decide if the allegations in the petition are true. A jury is not used in juvenile court. The judge will read off the allegations and ask the juvenile if the charges are true or false. It is here where the minor can decide to deny the charges or enter a plea. If the judge decides that the petition is true it is at that time a hearing date is set. The next step in the process is a disposition hearing.

During the disposition hearing several factors are weighed; whether the judge feels the findings are true to the dismissal of the petition (findings are deem untrue by the judge). If the judge does agree with the petition and its findings after the hearing he will then decide what to do with the juvenile. The judge will either place the juvenile on a 6 month informal probation with the probation department or make the minor a ward of the state. As a ward of the state the juvenile will either be sent home on a supervisorial probation, sent to a detention facility or boot camp or sent to the Division of Juvenile Justice.

The judge can also decide whether or not to send the juvenile to live with relatives or even foster care. The juvenile justice process is can be a lengthy process but it is in my opinion a good process. If I had to point out two things that I would change about the process I would have to say I would change the way a jury is not used and the timeframe for the District Attorney’s office to file a petition. I would change the process of not using a jury to using a jury because I feel that one said person should not be the deciding factor in a case.

If the juvenile had a jury then there would be several individuals who are allowed to weigh the factors and collectively determine if the juvenile is either guilty or innocent. I would change the length of time the DA has to file a petition to 24 hours. I say this because why wait and subject the child to potential lose time from school. Now, I know in some case the juvenile might not even be attending school as they should but in some cases they are and if they are and they are later found not to be guilty then how can the courts make this time lose up to the juvenile.

They can’t therefore the juvenile will have missed subsequent amount of days in school and will be subjected to attending summer school or some other form of school to make up for the lost time. What I am saying is that the petition process can hold of the next process (detention hearing) which will determine if the juvenile was held for a justified reason but if that juvenile was not and the judge decides to dismiss the case that time spent detained is just that lost time.