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Juvenile Court Procedure

Written Allegation: Every juvenile case begins with the police officer submitting a written allegation to either the juvenile probation office or the District Attorney's Office in the county where your child is facing delinquency. The written allegation will contain basic information like the name of the police officer, name, date of birth, and address of the juvenile, the date and time the offense took place and a description of the offense.

If your child is not under arrest, the police officer will submit a copy of the allegation to the juvenile probation office and forward a copy to the District Attorney's Office. If your child is under arrest, the written allegation will be filed with the court or detention center and copies will be forwarded to juvenile probation and the DA's office. However, the DA's office of any county may require that it receive a copy of the written allegation first and approve cases before they go to court. If this be the case in your county, then the DA's office will have to approve the written allegation before it is received by juvenile probation or the courts if your child is under arrest. The Pennsylvania Rules of Juvenile Procedure require that all written allegations must be approved or disapproved by the DA's office without unreasonable delay.

Detention Hearing: If the juvenile probation office or DA's office decides to detain your child in a juvenile detention facility, he or she is entitled to a detention hearing. A detention hearings is a two step process: 1) to determine if the Commonwealth can establish probable cause that a delinquent act was committed by the juvenile; and 2) if detention of the juvenile is warranted. You, your son or daughter and your attorney are entitled to receive notice of the date, time and place of this important hearing. If the court decides to detain your son or daughter, the court may in it's discretion grant a rehearing on the matter.

Intake: A juvenile probation officer may conduct an intake conference with your child. The conference is usually held at the juvenile probation office. You and your child's attorney have a right to be present. The juvenile probation officer must provide you with a copy of the written allegation prior to the hearing. At the intake conference, the probation officer may ask your child about biographical information, family relations, prior juvenile adjudications, academic reports, any school disciplinary proceedings brought against them and any history of drug use. Although, it is not required that your child have a lawyer at this intake conference, I highly recommend that your lawyer be present. Although it may work out for the best if your child answers all of their questions, your child has a fifth amendment right against self incrimination and is not required to answer the questions. At the intake conference, some juvenile probation officers may decide not to pursue the matter or recommend counseling or some form of diversionary program in lieu of filing a petition.

Petition: If the DA's office or juvenile probation officer decides to pursue delinquency on the charges, he or she must file a petition in the county clerk of courts. The petition contains information similar to that in the written allegation: 1) the name, date of birth, and address of the juvenile; 2) the date when the offense is alleged to have been committed; 3) the place where the offense took place; 4) a summary of the facts; and 5) a citation to the criminal statute that the juvenile allegedly violated. A copy of this petition shall be served on your son or daughter, you, the parent and your child's attorney.

Discovery: Discovery is the process in which your child's attorney will get information about your son or daughter's case. This information can include, written evidence, physical evidence, audio recordings, video recordings, the results of any scientific tests by experts, etc. The Commonwealth is required to make these items available for inspection to you or your or child's attorney. If the DA's office does not provide these items a "Motion to Compel Discovery" can be filed with the court.

Consent Decree: At any time after the filing of the petition and before an adjudication order, the court may upon motion of the Commonwealth suspend proceedings and continue the juvenile under the supervision in the juvenile's home, under terms and conditions promulgated by the juvenile probation office. This is known as a consent decree. A consent decree is typically the lightest supervision that a juvenile can receive. A consent decree may be in effect no longer than 6 months. The consent decree is usually available for first time non-violent juvenile offenders. At the end of the 6 months the criminal offenses will be automatically expunged.

Adjudicatory Hearing: The court is required to serve a summons to you and your child to appear at the adjudicatory hearing. The summons may be served in person or by first class mail. The adjudicatory hearing is the most important hearing in the juvenile process. If your child is detained, the adjudicatory hearing is required to occur within 10 days from the date the petition was filed. At the adjudicatory hearing, your child has the option to make an "admission" as to crimes alleged to have occurred; or have a hearing on the crimes. The hearing will be before a judge. It is similar to a bench trial in criminal court. The Commonwealth will produce and examine witnesses and your child's attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the Commonwealth's witnesses.

Ruling on Offenses: The court has seven days from the date of the hearing to determine if the juvenile committed the offenses alleged. If the court finds that the juvenile did not commit the offenses alleged in the petition, then the child shall be released and discharged. If the court finds that the child did commit the alleged offenses it should conduct an adjudication of delinquency hearing.

Adjudication of Delinquency Hearing: After the court has ruled that the child committed the offenses, the court shall determine if the juvenile is in need of treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation. If the court determines the child is not in need of any items mentioned above it shall release the juvenile. If it finds that the juvenile is in need of treatment and supervision, it shall enter an order adjudicating the child delinquent.

Dispositional Hearing: A dispositional hearing is an informal hearing to determine what rehabilitation the child will need. This hearing shall occur within 20 days from the date of the ruling on the offenses. At the dispositional hearing, the court shall enter an order that balances the protection of the community with the development of the juvenile to become a productive member of society. The order shall include the terms and conditions of the disposition and the name of the agency or institution that will provide treatment or supervision to the juvenile.

This list is not exhaustive. See Pa.R.J.C.P. 330 C.
This list is not exhaustive. See Pa.R.J.C.P. 515.