Juvenile

The county attorney is the prosecutor in all cases involving juvenile offenders (ages 10-18).  These range from curfew violations to the most serious felony criminal offenses. The county attorney also oversees a diversion program which allows first-time juvenile offenders to receive consequences involving minor offenses without going to court. 

JUVENILE JURISDICTION
Normally, juvenile court jurisdiction ends when a juvenile turns 19.  However, in serious cases, the county attorney may refer a juvenile for prosecution as an adult or prosecute the juvenile under Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction (EJJ).  If a child is certified as an adult, they receive the same sentence as adults who commit such acts.  Juveniles under Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction who are found to be delinquent have an adult sentence imposed, but stayed while they are supervised on juvenile probation until the age of 21.  If juvenile probation is successfully completed, the juvenile can avoid an adult jail sentence and an adult criminal record.  If the juvenile violates probation, then the adult sentence is imposed and the juvenile can be sent to an adult prison

BASIC COURT PROCEDURES

Detention Hearing
When a juvenile is taken into custody for violating a law, a detention hearing must be held within 36 hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.  At that time, the judge determines whether the juvenile must remain in detention.  If the juvenile is released to a parent or guardian, the judge may order electronic home monitoring and other conditions of release, such as no contact with victims or witnesses. 

Admit/Deny Hearing
When a petition is issued by the County Attorney’s Office and signed by a judge, the juvenile is scheduled for an Admit/Deny Hearing.  A judge will ensure that an attorney represents the defendant and ask the juvenile to admit or deny the allegations in the petition.

Pretrial
If requested by the county attorney or attorney for the juvenile, the judge will schedule a Pretrial Hearing.  Either side may present evidence or argue legal issues to the judge at that time.  The judge will issue rulings on any motions made.  If the case is not resolved following the pretrial, the judge will schedule an adjudicatory hearing.

Settlement Agreements
The vast majority of juvenile cases are settled without an adjudicatory hearing.    Most juveniles plead guilty as charged or enter into a settlement agreement.  A settlement agreement is an agreement between the prosecutor and the juvenile’s attorney to settle a juvenile case by an admission or other appropriate disposition without trial.  A settlement agreement is a way of settling a juvenile case whenever it appears to be in the interest of the public, the victim, and the effective administration of juvenile justice will be served without an adjudicatory hearing. 

Adjudicatory Hearing
Adjudicatory hearings are always heard by a judge alone (without a jury).  The hearing begins with both sides having the opportunity to make an opening statement on the facts they expect to prove.  The county attorney then presents the State’s case by using witnesses and exhibits.  The county attorney must prove the juvenile defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  The juvenile’s attorney then presents the defense case by using witnesses and exhibits.  The juvenile defendant is not required to prove anything.  The juvenile defendant can decide not to testify.  Once the defense has completed its case, both sides are allowed to make closing arguments.  The judge will then review the evidence and make a decision.

Disposition
In cases involving offenses that would be felonies if committed by an adult, a pre-disposition report is prepared.  The report includes a social history of the juvenile defendant, criminal history of the juvenile defendant, victim impact and other information and recommendations.  The county attorney and the juvenile’s attorney may also make recommendations to the judge regarding disposition.  Disposition may include detention, community work service, treatment, restitution, and driver’s license suspension.