Juvenile delinquency is an area of criminal law which deals with the treatment of those under 18 years of age alleged to have committed a crime (in the juvenile court system this is referred to as an act of delinquency). Most people, including many attorneys, have little working knowledge of the Juvenile Justice system. There are several critical stages in a juvenile proceeding from which you could benefit from the assistance of counsel with both experience in and knowledge of the juvenile justice system.
I have several years experience defending children accused of crimes, so let me offer a brief explanation of how the juvenile system works.
A typical juvenile delinquency case begins with an arrest or detention. This alone can be a very traumatic experience for both the child and the family alike. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the process. Within 24 hours, the child will be brought before a Circuit Court Judge who will determine whether Probable Cause for the crime exists and whether the child will be continued to be detained for a period of 21 days in a detention center. I will review the affidavit charging your child with a crime and argue against a finding of Probable Cause where appropriate, examine the risk assessment instrument to ensure that it was scored accurately by the Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as argue any other mitigating circumstances that might exist. Keeping your child out of a detention facility is my main objective at this point.
The next critical stage relates to the charging decision of the State Attorney's Office. Several alternatives to the formal judicial process exist, including Teen Court or other diversion type programs, and where appropriate, I will attempt to have the child's case handled non-judicially through one of these types of programs.
If handled through the court system, the next step in the process is called an Arraignment. This is a proceeding where the child, his/her parent, and his/ her attorney appear in court before the Judge and are informed of the charges. In most cases, we will enter a not guilty plea/denial at this stage. The Judge will likely enter a behavioral order which will require that the child comply with certain conditions imposed by the Court. Failure to do so can result in a contempt hearing before the Judge that can land the child back in a detention center. Common violations of a behavior order seem to be drug use and failure to obey parental rules. I will be prepared at a contempt hearing to defend the allegations against your child and, if found in contempt, urge the Judge to impose various alternative sanctions rather than time in a detention facility.
If necessary, I will insist that the State prove its case in an adjudicatory hearing that will be held before the Judge. Throughout the juvenile process, your child remains innocent until proven guilty and I will ensure that his/her rights at all stages are protected. Getting caught up in the juvenile justice system can have consequences that can last a lifetime. I recognize this and am committed to providing the type of advocacy in juvenile court that your child deserves.