How to Explain the Juvenile Court Process to a Juvenile

Help a juvenile understand the juvenile court process.
Help a juvenile understand the juvenile court process. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

If a minor breaks the law and police arrest him, the minor then enters the state's juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system -- police, detention, court and corrections -- work cooperatively with the common goal of rehabilitating the juvenile to discourage him from committing future illegal acts. Because the juvenile system can be confusing, help the juvenile by explaining the court process thoroughly.

Explain to the minor that the arrest was the first step of the juvenile system. At the time of the arrest, the police decide whether to confine the minor in juvenile detention or release him to a guardian. If released to a guardian, the minor will receive a hearing date notice in the mail. If detained, the minor will stay in a detention center until a detention hearing.

Tell the juvenile about a detention hearing, if he is detained in a detention center. In this situation, a detention hearing must occur within 24 to 48 hours of the detention in order for a judge to hear the facts and decide whether the juvenile needs continued detention.

Explain that an initial hearing will follow, in which the juvenile and his guardians will learn the formal charges. The judge will explain the juvenile's rights and will release him to a guardian's custody unless detention is necessary.

Advise the juvenile that the period leading up to the hearing is when attorneys for the state and the defense perform discovery. This means that the attorneys learn about the incident, they read all available reports and statements written and compiled by the police and they formulate their cases. The attorney for the state prepares to prosecute the juvenile and the attorney for the juvenile prepares a defense.

Explain the evidentiary hearing. This is the equivalent of an adult trial, except juvenile court does not have jury trials. The judge will listen to testimony, prosecution and defense and will then pronounce a sentence. Sentence may involve probation, community service, fines and detention, depending on the severity of the crime.

Tips & Warnings

  • A prosecuting attorney can initiate a hearing to waive a juvenile up to the adult court system for a serious crime. If this motion succeeds, the juvenile will move into the adult court system, which will treat the juvenile as an adult instead of a minor.

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