Juvenile Criminal Process

Every juvenile charged with a criminal offense has the same rights as an adult charged with a criminal offense. The only difference between the two systems is that juveniles are not afforded a jury trial. If a juvenile case goes to trial, guilt or innocence will be decided solely by a Judge. As with adult offenses, juveniles will have preliminary hearings where smaller decisions are made. Michele will represent your child at each step of his or her criminal case and be there to answer your questions about the process.

Juvenile Court Hearings

  • The first time your child sees a Judge will be either a First Appearance hearing or an Arraignment hearing. If your child is in custody he or she will have a hearing where the Judge decides whether your child should be released. If your child is released to you and charges are filed, you will need to return to court for a Second Appearance hearing where your child will be Arraigned.
  • The Arraignment hearing is where your child is formally advised of the charges. At this hearing your child's name and date of birth will be recorded and the charge or charges read out in court. Your child will enter a plea of not guilty (in most cases) and be scheduled for a Case Setting hearing.
  • At the Case Setting hearing your child will have an opportunity to advise the Court of whether he or she is ready to make a decision about how to resolve the case. If your child is not ready to make a decision he or she can request a continuance and come back for another Case Setting hearing. It is not unusual for cases to have multiple Case Setting hearings.
  • If your child opts to enter a plea of guilty there will be a Plea hearing. At this hearing he or she goes before the judge and states that they are pleading guilty to the charges. A Disposition hearing will follow the plea hearing either the same day or on a different day.
  • At the Disposition hearing the Judge will decide what sentence to impose. This may include detention time, time in a JRA facility, restitution, probation, community service, treatment, or other consequences and requirements that the Judge feels are appropriate. At the Disposition all parties, including the victim, are offered an opportunity to speak to the Judge.
  • Modification hearings occur if the juvenile fails to comply with some part of the sentence. If the Judge finds the juvenile willfully failed to comply than additional sanctions can be imposed which may include detention.

Decline Hearings

Not all juvenile offenses remain in Juvenile Court. For some of the most serious offenses the Court will be asked to make a decision about whether the case should remain in juvenile court. Keeping your child's case in Juvenile Court can be one of the most important aspects of the case. Children whose cases are "declined" or sent to adult court will face the same consequences as adults, serve time in adult prison facilities, and lose the rehabilitation programs available in juvenile court. Preparing for a decline hearing is an arduous task that requires production of documents including school records, medical records, and evaluations to demonstrate the interest of the child and the public are best served by the juvenile court retaining the case.

Juvenile Probation Counselor (JPC)

The JPC works under the supervision of the Court and prepares reports that are provided to all the parties and the Court. The JPC relationship is not a confidential relationship. The JPC can disclose any information you provide to any involved party. For this reason, no one should discuss the facts of the case with the JPC. The JPC will evaluate your child's needs and make a recommendation to the Court about what level of supervision is required and whether your child should be released while the case is pending. The JPC will also ensure that all conditions of a court order are followed and that appropriate services are provided. The JPC's responsibility at this stage is to provide community safety, accountability and be a liaison with the child's school on behalf of the Court. If your child violates the conditions of release the JPC will be responsible for advising the Court and State of violations and setting a hearing to address any violations. If this happens your child could be taken into custody.

Deferred Disposition and Diversion

There are opportunities in juvenile court to resolve cases without the requirement of detention or even without the filing of formal criminal charges. In some instances referral to these alternative programs is mandated but in other cases your child's attorney must fight to achieve the result. These programs are also dependent on you and your child following through with obligations to the court which may include educational programs, treatment, or community service. Linking your child with the right services will ensure they complete their obligations and succeed in these opportunities. Even with alternative programs there may be other consequences. Michele will explain these consequences to you and help you and your child choose the best resolution. http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/JuvenileCourt/diversion.aspx

Penalties for Juvenile Offenses

Criminal penalties for juvenile offenses are similar to those imposed for adult offenses. Juveniles can spend time in Detention or JRA, can be placed on probation, required to engage in treatment, pay fines, and compensate victims for their losses. Like most parents, you probably want to know if your child will be taken into custody. Whether your child is taken into custody and where depends on the seriousness of the offense. For less serious offenses (all misdemeanors and some lower level felonies) juveniles will serve a maximum of 30 days in a local detention facility. For certain class B and most class A felonies, children may serve time in a JRA facility. The sentence is determined by the Juvenile Offender Sentencing Grid. However, in some circumstances the Judge may impose more or less time than outlined in the sentencing grid. Judges have several options to address the needs of juvenile offenders who have unique circumstances. If a sentence outside the standard range is requested the JPC will likely play a key role in determining what sentence should be imposed.

General Information for Parents

Is your child being held in detention?

For information about juvenile detention facilities:

For more information on juvenile courts

Juvenile Resources