JUVENILE CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Juvenile cases require a different approach than nearly all others. Juveniles often lack fundamental knowledge of court procedures and do not understand the lasting impact of certain actions upon their lives. While the adult court system is aimed at punishment, the juvenile system focuses on remediation, diversion, alternative programs, and protecting children and the community. Brian M. Latuga, Esq. provides a personalized and unique approach for every client and is compassionate about juvenile law. Brian wants to see every child succeed, to reach their full potential, and to see that even major obstacles and difficulties during childhood can be harnessed for good and used to excel.
Petition and Intake
Most juveniles will end up before the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JDR) through the filing of a “Petition” with an “Intake Officer.” This is like a warrant being issued for an adult from a judicial officer or magistrate. The process before a Petition is issued may look very much like it would for an adult – a juvenile may be formally arrested by law enforcement for a felony, for being a runaway, or for select misdemeanor offenses like shoplifting, assault, or carrying a weapon on school property. Whether a juvenile will remain in custody depends on many factors and the decisions of law-enforcement, juvenile Intake Officers, and the courts. If a juvenile is taken into custody then there must be a “detention hearing” the next day that court sits, but not longer than 72 hours after initial detention.
An Intake Officer a lot of discretion with juveniles. Their role is to issue Petitions where mandated but also is to divert juveniles through classes or alternative programs if appropriate. A juvenile may never see a formal courtroom or judge under certain circumstances. The juvenile’s parent(s) or guardian(s) must be involved in this process. In fact, some things require the parent’s agreement to accomplish. The Intake Officer may release a juvenile with restrictions (like a bond/ bail for adults), or may commit the juvenile to a Detention Center.
Adjudication and Disposition
Terminology and procedures continue to vary from adults in the juvenile system. A trial is referred to as “Adjudication,” a sentencing is called a “Disposition,” and a “Social History” is prepared rather than a pre-sentence report. Unless tried as an adult, juveniles are not found “guilty” of crimes – they are “adjudicated delinquent” or found to be “not innocent.” The distinction is subtle, but the result can be just like a “guilty” finding.
Certification and Transfer
If the crime is serious enough, and the child is 14 or older at the time of the alleged offense, he or she may be "certified" or "transferred" to the Circuit Court for trial as an adult. The prosecuting Commonwealth Attorney has an enormous amount of discretion in whether to try a juvenile as an adult, or to have the case remain in the juvenile court system. Cases that involve certification or transfer to the Circuit Court are very serious and require a seasoned criminal attorney with knowledge of the adult and juvenile systems, and someone who also has a good working relationship with the prosecuting attorneys.
A juvenile who is 14 or older at the time of the offense and who is Adjudicated Delinquent of a felony will be barred from possessing several weapons, including a firearm, until at least the age of 29.
Possible expungement of charges from a juvenile’s record is different from an adult. If a juvenile is found “delinquent” of a felony, then the records are retained. Otherwise, records may be eligible for destruction automatically at a specified time, or upon petition to the Juvenile Court.
If your child or a juvenile you care for are in need a competent, compassionate, and aggressive advocate on their side, Brian M. Latuga, Esq. is here to help. Call Brian directly for a free consultation; or, call his assistant, Heather, to make an appointment for an in-office meeting. Our contact information is here. We stand up strongly for yours and your loved one's rights.