Private Counsel LLC lawyers practice juvenile criminal defense, and
have experience representing juvenile clients and their

When a person under the age of 18 is accused of a crime, he or she
will usually be charged and tried through the juvenile criminal justice
system, which is different than for adults.  


Who is considered a "juvenile?"
Also called "Child," a juvenile is any
unmarried person under the age of 18 alleged to be dependent, in
need of services, or from a family in need of services, or any married or
unmarried person who is charged with a violation of law occurring prior
to the time that person reached the age of eighteen years.


Arrest ("Taken into Custody")
When  a juvenile is arrested (also called "taken into custody"),  he or
she is taken to a local Juvenile Assessment Center ("JAC") for
assessment, where it will be determined whether he or she should be
held in secure detention (similar to jail for adults) or released to the
parent/guardian ("home detention") while the charges are pending.
Whether the juvenile will be held in secure detention or released to the
custody of their parent or guardian will depend on several factors,
including the seriousness of the criminal charges, and whether it is
determined the juvenile poses a risk to the community.  If held in
secure detention, the juvenile can be held up to 21 days

The juvenile can also, in some cases, be released to the parent or
guardian with a referral to a "diversion program."

At this step the juvenile's case will be assigned to a Juvenile Probation
Officer, who receives a copy of the charge from law enforcement or the
court, and will contact the juvenile and his/her family to gather
information about the juvenile and family.

The Juvenile Probation Officer will make an assessment and develop
a plan to address the offense. The nature of the offense, the risk the
youth presents to the community, damages incurred to the victim by
youth's actions, and other needs the youth may have are all considered.

The Juvenile Probation Officer then makes a recommendation to the
State Attorney's Office, taking into account the protection of the
community, holding the juvenile accountable to the victim and a
addressing the juvenile's needs and preventing future instances of
delinquent behavior.

Diversion Program
Sometimes the juvenile may be referred to a diversion program.  If the
juvenile completes the program, no further court action will be pursued
by the state attorney. However, if the juvenile fails to complete the
program, the state attorney will file a petition with the juvenile division of
the circuit court, formally charging the youth with the delinquent offense.

Teen Court
Teen Court is an program that allows first-time juvenile defendants to
come before their peers instead of going to juvenile court.  Teen Court
puts the juvenile on trial to determine a sentence (the juvenile must
admit guilt to the charge). All the participants except the judge are
teenagers.  The Jury will decide a sentence, which may include such
penalties as community service, restitution (payment to the victim for
his/her losses), an apology, a reading assignment, an essay, a tour of
the county jail, and serving as a Teen Court juror in future case.  If the
juvenile successfully completes Teen Court, the juvenile criminal
charges will be dropped.  If the juvenile does not complete Teen Court,
the case will be sent back to the juvenile criminal court for prosecution.

Filing Charges
The State Attorney's Office (local prosecutor) may file charges (called a
"Petition for Delinquency")  in the juvenile division of the circuit court,
charging the youth with the criminal ("delinquent") offense.

Court process
The juvenile, normally through his or her attorney, will have the option
of reaching a plea agreement with the State (where no trial is held), or
having the case proceed to trial.  If the juvenile's case goes trial (called
an "adjudicatory hearing"),  the judge will listen to the evidence and
decide if the juvenile is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Note that
juveniles are not entitled to a trial by jury--only trial by  a judge.  If the
judge finds the juvenile guilty of the charges, he can either "adjudicate"
the juvenile delinquent, or "withhold adjudication."

Disposition (Sentencing)
Once a juvenile has entered a plea to criminal charges or been found
guilty, the case will proceed to "disposition" or a "dispositional
hearing."  This is the sentencing phase.  The judge will impose a
sentence that is appropriate to the charges and the juvenile's age and
situation.  The judge has jurisdiction over the juvenile until his or her
19th birthday.  The judge has 2 choices:  probation or commitment to a
DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) correctional/residential center.  

Similar to adult probation, the juvenile will be placed under the
supervision  of a probation officer.  The juvenile is placed on probation
for either a fixed period of time (such as for one year for a first degree
misdemeanor), or until the juvenile's 19th birthday (21 or 22 in some
instances).  The court can order the probation terminated, usually after
completion of all terms and conditions ordered by the court and upon
recommendation by the probation officer.

Correctional/Residential Center
Correctional centers are considered a "rehabilitation program" for
juvenile delinquents, with 4 possible ranges of restrictiveness:

  • Low-risk Residential. Juveniles at this level are assessed as
    low risks to public safety, yet require 24-hour supervision. Most
    placements result from first and second-degree
    misdemeanors to third degree felonies.
  • Moderate-risk Residential. Juveniles at this level have been
    assessed as moderate risks to public safety and require 24-
    hour supervision.
  • High-risk Residential.  Juveniles classified for placement in
    this restrictiveness level have been assessed as high risks to
    public safety and require close supervision in a structured
    residential setting that provides 24-hour secure custody and
  • Maximum-risk Residential.  Juveniles classified for placement
    in this restrictiveness level have been assessed as serious
    risks to public safety and require 24-hour confinement in a
    maximum-security setting. They generally have a history of
    numerous offenses and/or violent and other serious felony
    offenses. This includes a minimum stay of 18 months

Violation of Probation ("VOP")
When a juvenile is placed on probation, If he or she violates the
conditions of probation or fails to complete the sanctions imposed by
the court, a Violation of Probation will be filed. If the court finds that a
violation of probation occurred it may revoke probation and impose a
sentence such as placement in a Department of Juvenile Justice
residential facility.