JUVENILE LAW AND THE DETENTION HEARING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Having a child arrested can be a devastating thing for a family to go through. But it does happen. If you find yourself in this position, it is important to understand what occurs at the beginning of most juvenile cases: the juvenile detention hearing.
What Is a Detention Hearing?A detention hearing is something unique to juvenile law. It is similar, but not exactly like the process of granting or denying bail in an adult case.
At this hearing, the judge will determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the child committed an offense and whether the child should be detained for a longer period. By having a neutral judge decide whether there has been probable cause, rather than just the police and prosecutor, it inserts an extra level of scrutiny to the case. Release is not guaranteed, and often children will be detained for 10 working days pending further investigations into the alleged offense.
What Are the Timelines?When a child is initially arrested by the police, multiple procedural requirements are set into action. First, the police officer who made the arrest will take the child to a designated facility, usually a juvenile detention center. A juvenile detention center is like jail, but with certain distinctions, the largest being that there are no adult offenders housed there.
The detention hearing then happens very fast. Within 48 hours (or the first working day after the weekend), a hearing must be held in front of a juvenile court judge.
The Detention CriteriaIn deciding whether to keep the child detained, the judge will be considering several statutory reasons. Being prepared to overcome these reasons is highly important and vital to getting your child released.
He/she is likely to abscond or be removed from the jurisdiction of the court;
Suitable supervision, care, or protection for him is not being provided by a parent, guardian, custodian, or other person;
He/she has no parent, guardian, custodian, or other person able to return him to the court when required;
He/she may be dangerous to himself or may threaten the safety of the public if released; or
He/she has previously been found to be a delinquent child or has previously been convicted of a penal offense punishable by a term in jail or prison and is likely to commit an offense if released.
What Should I Do?These hearings can sometimes be frustrating for the child and parents because they are informal and often done very quickly. Knowing a few key things before can help tremendously.
The first thing to do is speak with an attorney who is experienced in juvenile law and who can help guide you through the process. Juvenile law is a very unique area of law with its own set of courts, laws, and requirements. Having a qualified lawyer at the initial detention hearing can make the difference between release and continued detention. There are also plenty of things to personally consider and be prepared for.
The most important thing for you to do is to show up and be actively involved in the hearing. Bring along other family members or friends of the family who might be able to help supervise your child or testify to his/her character.
Secondly, cooperate with the juvenile probation department concerning your home and your child. They will often need to inspect your home. Make sure it is safe, neat, and in order. Accommodate requests to speak or meet with you. These probation officers usually give testimony and opinions during the detention hearing, so leaving a good impression on them helps immensely. A word of caution though; juvenile probation officers often work directly with the prosecutors and police in the case, and things you say to them about your child and the alleged criminal offense may later be used against you and your child.
Third, have a plan for when your child comes home. Be able to testify about your work schedules, who will be with the child when he/she is not in school, etc. Make accommodations to bring your child back to court whenever needed and make it clear to the judge that this is important to you. Discuss steps you might take to keep your child from running away or violating any conditions of his release. Doing all these things can help convince the judge to release your child.
Conditions of ReleaseIf your child is released, there will usually be certain conditions that they must abide by while the case is working through the system. They will be like probation conditions but are only temporary. Common conditions can include a curfew, reporting to a juvenile probation officer, refraining from associating with certain people, regular drug testing, an ankle monitor, and many more.
It is imperative that you supervise and help your child abide by all these requirements. Violation could lead to a directive to apprehend (a juvenile equivalent of an adult warrant) being issued for your child’s arrest and your child being detained again.
We know this process can be extremely difficult on a family. Knowing what to expect and having a plan in place can reduce the stress level and ultimately help improve the outcome of the case.