Delinquency Court Process

A juvenile, someone between the ages of 8 and 18, who is charged with a criminal offense is accused of being delinquent.

Charges & Investigation

Charges come to the attention of the court through various avenues. The police officer may write the youth a citation, ticket, and tell them when and where to appear for court. The police officer may arrest an individual for committing a crime and bring the youth to the detention center, where they will have their advisory hearing before a judge within 24 hours.

Determination of Crime

The officers may investigate a crime and upon completing the investigation, send the police report to the County Attorney’s Office. A County Attorney will read over the police report and determine whether a crime has been committed. If the County Attorney believes a crime has been committed, the County Attorney will file a petition, charging document, with the court.

Scheduling Advisory Hearing

The court will schedule the matter for an advisory hearing and court administration will send a letter to the youth and his parent’s informing them of the impending court hearing.
  1. Consultation
  2. Advisory Hearing
  3. Adjudication
  4. Disposition
Since a juvenile’s freedom is at stake the court will appoint an attorney to represent the youth. The attorney will meet with their client before the first court hearing. The attorney will sit down with the child and verify the biographical information is current and correct, inform the child of:
  • The charge
  • Their constitutional rights
  • Options for handling the charge
  • Dispositional (sentencing) alternatives

Client/Attorney Privilege

The attorney and the client will discuss the facts surrounding the allegation. The attorney will speak to their client, the juvenile, alone. Client/attorney privilege prevents the attorney from telling anyone what was discussed in the client meeting but if a parent is present the parent can be called by the county attorney at trial to testify about any admission the youth made to his/her attorney.

Plea Offers

During the client/attorney consultation the attorney will ask about possible witnesses, for and against the client and discuss possible defenses. The attorney will also tell the client if the county attorney has made a “plea offer.” A plea offer is where the county attorney offers to reduce the seriousness of a crime or dismiss counts in exchange for an admission to an offense. The client and attorney will discuss the pros and cons of a plea offer.

The client will decide how they wish to handle their case, accepting a plea offer, setting the matter for adjudication or admitting the offense.