Legal representation

Talking of legal representation, families and juveniles who are considered as living in abject poverty usually provided with free legal representation that is conducted through individual local legal aid mechanisms. Prior to 1996 for example, close to 75% of all legal services cases in the United States were related to juveniles’ basic legal requirements. 33% of these cases involved family law issues like visitation, divorce, custody, child support, and domestic violence protection.

22% of the cases comprised of living conditions which were deemed as inhabitable and eviction, while 16% were related to benefits such as welfare collection for parents with disabilities or for children (Lahey, 2003, p. 106). Whenever a juvenile is taken to custody, one is not allowed the right to bail although, however, bond will routinely be set for most of the offenders. The court officer conducting the initial hearing has the jurisdiction to decide on whether to release the juvenile or detain depending on his/her beliefs concerning the best way the case should be handled.

A petition must be filled in the soonest time possible if the juvenile is to be restricted in custody. A detention hearing is then conducted as soon as possible to determine whether or not the minor can be released awaiting the final hearing (Mays, 1991, 26). A transfer hearing on the other hand is conducted in the case where older juveniles are charged with very serious offenses. This on its part is intended to rule on the practicability of resolving the case in an adult criminal court.

If the decision reached is keeping the juvenile in custody, then a trial is normally scheduled to take place within 30 days and within 90 days when the juvenile is not maintained in custody. In either of the two situations, there can be postponement of the hearing if it is thought to be of good cause. During trial, the juvenile is not allowed the right of a jury but a referee or a juvenile court judge hears the case.

As is the case in the adult criminal court prosecution, there must be prove beyond reasonable doubt by the District Attorney that the allegations leveled against the juvenile holds. The minor has the right, in defense, to call witnesses at no cost to the juvenile. He/she doesn’t have to prove his/her innocence. At all matters, witnesses can on their part be ordered (subpoenaed) to attend to court (Sanders, 1970, p. 54). A juvenile can be declared a ward of the court at the final hearing, at the point which there may be removal of parental custody.

The court may then decide to put the minor on probation in any place; his/her own home, a group home, a foster home or any other institution if the juvenile is repeat offender or if the offense is more serious. It is generally the will of many courts to initially try all means possible as to how they can work with the juveniles on probation in their own homes, with other means only coming as the last resort. Each of the various juvenile cases usually involves three separate hearings which are: • Adjudication • Disposition. • Arraignment