Children under age 18 who are charged with criminal offenses face serious, but different, consequences and procedures. A waiver hearing may determine whether a kid’s case is heard in District or Circuit Court with adult consequences. In Juvenile Court, the child and their parent(s) or guardian(s) may face Status, Motions, Merits/Adjudication, Disposition, Placement, Review and/or Competency Hearings. Dedicated efforts must be made to keep kids out of the school to prison pipeline.
If the matter stays in Juvenile Court, like an adult, a child is presumed innocent and the State is required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Unlike a criminal case, a child in Juvenile Court does not have a right to a jury trial. If the child chooses to go to trial, instead of accepting a plea offer, the judge would consider preliminary motions; testimony and evidence; issue findings of fact and rulings of law; determine involvement (or guilt) and if so, delinquency and the appropriate disposition (or sentence).
Similar to an adult case, preparation for trial is required to effectively negotiate a plea offer and to determine whether to accept a plea offer. A kid currently on probation may need to consider the impact of a possible violation based on the new charges.
Aside from preparing for trial, telling the best story possible for your child may be necessary to keep him or her at home between hearings and for disposition (or sentencing). Unlike an adult case, if a child pleas involved (or guilty) or is found involved at trial, the Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over the child until age 21, or until the case is closed. Based on a Pre-Disposition Investigation or Social History Investigation, the court could order detention in a juvenile facility, possibly out of state, until that time. In practice, the court may order placement in a behavior modification program; unlike adults, kids don’t do time. The court could also order probation, likely supervised and with conditions. Restitution and court costs may be ordered for both the child and parents. Later, Review and/or Violation of Probation Hearings may be set to determine a child’s compliance with a court order.