Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice

Youth under the age of 17 alleged to have broken the law are respondents in Juvenile Delinquency cases. Juvenile respondents, are considered innocent until proven “responsible” by a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.  Youth have the right to have a jury trial on all of the charges before the court.
 
In practice, most youth admit to responsibility for the charges, and there are very few trials. With youth, the focus is on getting the youth on the right track, and in many cases, depending on the severity of the charges and the history of the youth, this involves offering youth the chance to have limited involvement with the court and no lasting record of the offense. For youth who are not offered that opportunity, or who are offered the opportunity but then do not successfully meet the requirements, there is a possibility of detention, and usually a period of probation, including strict rules to follow and services to participate in.  
 
The court’s role is to support the current and future safety of the community by providing services to support the success of youth and their families in avoiding future system involvement. The court works to provide the most effective services, at the lowest cost to the community and to families, and in a way that keeps youth in their homes, schools and the community whenever possible.
 
This video explains how the court system works for Juvenile Justice cases.
 
Attorneys: Families may retain an attorney at any point in the process. To obtain a court appointed attorney you must complete a Request for Appointment of Attorney and a Financial Statement and return the signed originals to Juvenile Court. You can get those forms at court. You will receive a copy of the Order Appointing an Attorney. You will  be responsible for this attorney’s fees (link to Fees page at main Juvenile Court page), but the benefit is that you receive assistance from an attorney as soon as the attorney is appointed.
 
Hearings: A series of hearings take place. The family is advised of rights to consult with an attorney at any point.  The first hearing is a Preliminary Inquiry, to determine if further action should be taken. This is usually scheduled within two weeks of when the petition is filed with the court and is an informal hearing, not on the record, in front of a Juvenile Hearing Officer, not a judge or referee. The purpose is to review the petition, determine whether it is likely that the petition will be authorized, and consider options. The Hearing Officer may recommend diversion, which is a program that if successfully completed will not result in a record of court involvement. The Hearing Officer may recommend Consent Calendar, which also requires an admission of responsibility, but can also result in no record of court involvement if successfully completed. If neither of these options are applicable, the Hearing Officer will decide on the next step. Next steps might include:
  • Continued Preliminary Inquiry: Continue to gather information and discuss the case to decide on the appropriate course of action.
  • Preliminary Hearing or Pre-Trial: At either of these types of hearings, the Court will decide whether to “authorize” the petition (make a finding that there is probable cause to believe that the allegations are true) and one of three things happens
    1. The juvenile will admit responsibility to the original allegations
    2. A plea agreement is reached OR
    3. The case moves to the next step, which is Trial.
  • Trial: The Juvenile has a right to a bench trial before the Referee or the Judge, or a Jury Trial before the Judge.  At trial, the Prosecutor presents evidence At this time, the youth has the same rights as if the police were questioning the youth, and can also bring in witnesses and cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution. The Judge or Referee may require bond be posted as a condition of release or order the youth into detention pending trial. If bond is required, both parents and the youth will be required to sign a bond form indicating understanding of the terms and what may happen if those terms are violated.  Ultimately, if the youth admits responsibility or is found responsible, the next step is to decide what to do to hold the youth accountable and support future success.
 
Probation Officers: Livingston County has a team of dedicated and experienced Juvenile Probation Officers who get involved in the case as early as appropriate to get to know the youth, understand what is going on with the family and help support success. If there is a determination of responsibility, the next step is for the Probation Officer to interview and assess the family, gather information from other sources such as school and service providers, and make a recommendation to the Court.
 
At a Disposition Hearing the court issues Orders that must be followed. These Orders generally include that the youth must meet regularly with the Probation Officer, and must participate in certain services or experiences that are designed to address the specific issues identified in the assessment. In some cases, parents are also ordered to participate in services. A term of probation, usually from six months to a year, will be ordered.  In addition to services, and other conditions, each youth must follow 8 Standard Terms.
 
The Court will hold Disposition Review hearings to assess the progress of the youth, and the best outcome is that all services are completed successfully and the case is closed successfully with a finding that “the youth has been rehabilitated.”
 
Unfortunately, many youth are not so successful. The Juvenile Probation Officers work closely with the youth when problems come up, and try to help them stay on track, but when youth are ordered to drug test and the test comes back positive, or ordered to attend school, attend meetings with Probation, attend counseling services, or other activities and they just do not do it, there is sometimes no choice other than to file a Probation Violation. If this is done, there will be a Probation Violation Hearing, and if the youth is found responsible for this violation, consequences will be determined.