The Initial Detention Hearing
After your child is arrested, his or her case goes through several phases. Initially, there will be a detention hearing. At the hearing will be a juvenile probation officer, the state prosecutor, a judge, the child, and his or her attorney. These hearings are generally closed to the public. The primary purpose of the hearing is to determine if there is probable cause to believe that your child has committed a crime. After hearing the evidence, if the judge is satisfied that a crime has likely been committed by the child, the court can detain the child and release them into the custody of the juvenile probation department for a period not to exceed ten business days.
If Formal Charges are Filed
Around the same time as the detention hearing, the case file goes through an intake process. This is where the initial decision is made as to whether the case will be filed, dismissed, or dealt with informally without filing. The prosecutor will visit with the juvenile probation officer, review the evidence involved in the case, look at the child's criminal and educational history, and consider the seriousness of the offense.
If the state decides to file the child's case, the prosecutor will file a petition alleging delinquent conduct against the child. This petition requests the court to have a hearing regarding the case on its merits. While the case is pending the case proceeds much like that of an adults with the discussion of plea bargains and alternate resolutions. Ultimately, an adjudication hearing will take place. This is where the judge makes a determination of guilt based on the evidence presented by the state.
Post-Adjudication and Punishment Phase
At the conclusion of the adjudication hearing, if the judge finds there is sufficient evidence to make a finding of guilt, a disposition, or punishment hearing, will follow. At the disposition hearing the court will consider whether to order the child into counseling, confinement, probation, or perform community service restitution. This is based in large part upon the prosecutor's suggestions and the probation department's recommendations. If a plea bargain is worked out between the prosecutor and the child, it is at this point that the agreement is presented to the judge for his or her approval. A skilled, well-respected criminal defense lawyer will be able to assist you and your child during the formal hearing process and negotiate the best possible solution for your child's needs.