Juvenile Courts are different in some ways from adult courts. Attempts are made to protect the juvenile’s privacy, so many of the hearings are closed to the public. Generally, only the juveniles and their parents are present at the hearing. At least one legal guardian must attend, unless the child is a ward of the state. The probation officer also attends. Juvenile Court hearings are less formal than trials held in adult courts. Juveniles do not have the right to a jury trial, nor can they post bail in order to get out of detention, unless they are from out of the state.
Juvenile Courts are similar to adult courts in that the courts are required to meet constitutional requirements of due process. Juveniles must be notified of all the charges against them and must be given the chance to call and cross-examine witnesses. They have the right to an attorney and the right against self-incrimination.
Generally, only the juvenile, the parents, and the attorney representing the juvenile have access to a juvenile’s record. If a youth is 14 or older and commits a felony, certain parts of his or her records are available on request. The Juvenile Court may consider past records to determine dispositions for new offenses. If a youth is later convicted in an adult court, his or her record may be made available to adult probation and parole for use in preparing their pre-sentencing report.
To expunge a Juvenile Court record, the juvenile must pay a filing fee and request an expungement hearing at least one year from the date jurisdiction ended. The judge may expunge the record if the juvenile has stayed out of trouble during the year and has reached the age of 18.
Alleged offenses are generally first reported to the Juvenile Court by the police. At the court, cases are assigned to an intake juvenile probation officer who meets with both the juvenile and his or her parents to determine what action is necessary. If the juvenile denies the charge, the probation officer will set a time for a hearing with a judge.
If the juvenile admits to the charge, the intake officer has two options, depending on a number of factors including the severity of the offense, the family situation, and the juvenile’s age and past record. The officer may set a time for the juvenile and the parents to have a court hearing with a judge or the officer may develop a non-judicial contract that out- lines how the juvenile will be held accountable for the offense that was committed. If the contract is fulfilled, the juvenile’s case will not go to court.
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