Juvenile Justice Process
When juveniles (under 18 years of age) commit
crimes, they may be taken into custody by a law
enforcement officer. Depending on the type of
crime, juveniles might be taken to a juvenile
assessment center where they will be screened
for detention. Depending on the charge and based
on an assessment of risk to the public and the
needs of the juveniles, they may be placed on
any of three forms of detention status: home,
non-secure or secure. If placed in secure
detention they will be held in a secure facility
until the court decides their case.
During the intake process, the Department of
Juvenile Justice will review the charges and
will make recommendations to the state
attorney's office(SAO). If the SAO agrees, the
charge can be handled without going to court and
can be diverted to a community based program.
Law enforcement can also divert a charge through
a program called civil citation or teen court.
If a juvenile successfully completes the
diversion program, then the charges are
The State Attorney's Office may decide to
formally charge the juvenile by filing a
petition in the juvenile court. If the charge is
especially serious, and if the facts meet
statutory guidelines, the SAO can file the
charges directly in the adult court or take it
before the grand jury for indictment.
Once the SAO files a petition in the juvenile
court, the case is set for an arraignment where
the juvenile will enter a plea. If the juvenile
pleads not guilty, then the case is set for an
adjudicatory hearing before the juvenile judge.
An adjudicatory hearing is like a trial but the
judge determines the guilt; there is no jury. If
the judge finds that the juvenile committed the
offense, the court can then either adjudicate
the juvenile delinquent or withhold
DISPOSITION HEARING (SENTENCING)
When a juvenile is found to have committed a
delinquent act the court will hold a disposition
hearing to determine which sanctions to impose
on the juvenile. The sanctions could range from
community-based sanctions like probation and
community services up to residential commitment.
JUVENILES TRIED AS ADULTS
Juveniles who are prosecuted as adults may be
sentenced to adult or juvenile sanctions. After
a hearing, the court will decide on the
sentencing or disposition. Any juvenile who is
prosecuted and sentenced as an adult, regardless
of age, will be treated as an adult in any
future criminal proceedings. However, juveniles
who are prosecuted as adults but sentenced as
juveniles keep their status as juveniles.