The Juvenile Court Process

According to the Juvenile Corrections Act, except for certain traffic, alcohol, tobacco, and watercraft violations, people under the age of 18 years who are found to have violated any federal, state, local law or municipal ordinance are set under a separate process which is classified as a juvenile case. These cases are handled in the magistrate division of the district court (Juvenile Services, 2007). The process begins as follows: Filing of case Based on the law, only a law enforcement officer who has found that a juvenile has broken a law can file a case that would bring the offender to court.

The officer then files a report regarding the offense made which would be reviewed by a prosecuting attorney who, in turn, would determine if there is enough evidence to file a petition before a court. A petition is the actual document or charge against the offender which would bring him to court for actual trial. After the petition has been filed, a probation officer speaks with juvenile and his or her parents or guardian and tell them about the juvenile’s charges and his constitutional rights.

If the probation officer finds that an actual court trial would not be in the interest of the juvenile or the public, then he may recommend to the judge that the case be dismissed. The judge may approve or reject the recommendation (Juvenile Services). Rights of a juvenile offender Once arrested: The juvenile has the right to remain silent as anything the he or she says can be used against him or her in a court of law. The juvenile has the right to talk to a lawyer and the right to have an appointed lawyer if he or she cannot afford to hire one.

The juvenile has the right to have a lawyer present when being questioned. At any given time, the juvenile can decide not to answer any questions or make any statement. If the juvenile is under 12 years of age, only his or her parent guardian can wave the above rights (Juvenile Services, 2007). In detention: The juvenile and the parent, if non-English speaking, have the right to be provided by the court with an interpreter. The juvenile has the right to be released from detention unless there is: – A "probable cause" determination within 48 hours of being detained

– Information that would incriminate him or her which is filed within 72 hours of being detained or the detention hearing (Juvenile Services, 2007) When going to court: The juvenile and the parents have the right to be informed before they are summoned to court. Parents have the right to be present at all court hearings of their child. Parents may have to pay for the costs of court appointed lawyers, detention, and for the costs if the juvenile goes to a state institution (Juvenile Services 2007). The Juvenile court team

Basically, the juvenile court team is composed of the judge, who generally decides on the outcome of the case, the case manager, who oversees the filing and documentation of the case, the prosecutor, the lawyer that would attempt to prove that the juvenile is guilty of violating a law, the defense lawyer, who is in charge of ensuring that the rights of the juvenile are protected and that the trail is fair to him or her, and the district attorney, who provides support for the juvenile offender and his or her family (Juvenile Services). Phases of the trial

The trial basically has three phases: Detention Hearing A detention hearing must take place the next day after a juvenile is detained. In this hearing the judge decides whether or not the juvenile should remain in detention. If the juvenile is set free, the judge may order him or her to observe certain rules. These may include (Juvenile Services): •    Going to school •    Going to work •    Staying home when not at school or work •    Being home at certain times of the day Arraignment Hearing If the juvenile is not currently in detention, the arraignment hearing is usually the first hearing.

Here, the judge informs the juvenile about his or her rights and the nature and of his offense. Afterwards, the juvenile must tell the judge if he or she is pleading guilty or not guilty. If the juvenile pleads guilty, the he or she is admitting that he or she broke the law. Here the judge may set a time and date for the juvenile to come back to court for a disposition hearing. On the other hand, if the juvenile pleads not guilty, the judge sets a time for the juvenile to come back to court for a "fact finding" hearing (Juvenile Services). Fact Finding Hearing

This is basically the hearing where the prosecutor proves that the juvenile broke the law or where the defense lawyer proves that juvenile is innocent. The judge may decide whether the juvenile is guilty or innocent depending on the arguments of the prosecutor and the defense (Juvenile Services. Disposition Hearing This is where the judge basically decides what to do with the juvenile who is guilty of breaking the law. The decision becomes the disposition order which would make the juvenile offender do one of the following (Juvenile Services):

•    Supervision by a probation officer •    Volunteer (unpaid) work •    Paying a fine •    Spending time in detention •    Paying restitution Restitution Restitution is basically an order for the juvenile, who was found guilty of violating a law, to compensate or make up for the damages or injury he or she gave to the victim. It is basically an act of restoring and fully repairing the damages. Confidentiality Basically, in most justice systems, the court trials are open to the public, which include the media or other people.

However, there are several arguments that the trials should be closed to the public to save the accused of embarrassment. On the other hand, there are also arguments that court proceedings should be made open to make the juvenile aware that the public is watching him or her (Edwards, 2004). To resolve this issue, it was proposed that judge decides whether or not the trial should be open to public upon consideration of the magnitude of the case and the condition of the accused and the victim.

The judge would weigh all considerations and ultimately decide on the accessibility of the court proceedings to the public (Edwards, 2004).


Juvenile Services. (2007). Juvenile Court Process. Retrieved October 30, 2007 from http://www. co. whatcom. wa. us/juvenile/ Edwards,L. P. (2004). Confidentiality and the Juvenile and Family Courts. Retrieved October 30, 2007 from http://www. childrensprogram. org/Confidentiality%20and%20the%20Juvenile%20and%20Family%20Courts. pdf