How Juvenile Justice Works
Click on a step in the sequence for more information. Click here for a graphic version. This is an overview. For details, contact your closest Probation Services office.
Delinquency Referral -– When a juvenile is reported to the Division from a law enforcement officer for committing an offense, status offense, or probation or conduct violation. The Division’s Juvenile Probation Officers (JPOs) receive these reports. The next step is Intake Investigation.
Detention -- Juveniles can be briefly held in a detention facility to protect the public, keep the juveniles safe, or to ensure appearance at later justice proceedings.
Intake Investigation -- A JPO does an intake review and decides how the referral will be handled. This decision is based on Division policy, the results of screenings, the juvenile’s history, and other factors. Possible next steps are: Delinquency Petition, Dismissal, Informal Adjustment, Informal Probation, or Screening and Service Referral.
Dismissed at Intake -- During the Intake Investigation, if there is not suitable proof to proceed further, the case will be dismissed.
Informal Probation -- The JPO may place the juvenile under informal probation, with consent of the juvenile and parents or guardian. Informal Probation is a contract, and JPOs cannot change it without agreement. It can be withdrawn if the juvenile fails to meet requirements.
The original agreement will be in place for six months. It may be extended up to six more months, if everyone agrees. Informal Probation can include restitution and community work service, as appropriate. The juvenile and parents may be referred to other agencies for services, as well.
Informal Adjustment -- The management of a juvenile case outside the formal court system. Informal adjustment tends to be used for less-serious offenses by juveniles who do not have a significant history of delinquency This requires the agreement of the juvenile and parents. Adjustment can include activities ranging from referring the youth to a diversion program to a meeting with the JPO to determine how to make restorations to the victim.
Screening and Service Referral -- The JPO can decide not to pursue the matter further, but that the juvenile would benefit from community support services. The JPO will determine which services may be the greatest benefit to the juvenile. This can include use of standard assessments.
Delinquency Petition –- The JPO can file a petition to the Court if he or she decides there is sufficient evidence that the juvenile committed an offense under DJJ jurisdiction, and there needs to be formal court action to secure a suitable supervision plan.
Then the JPO schedules a hearing and notifies all parties. The JPO will also notify the victim of their right to attend all hearings.
The juvenile, and all parents or guardians, are entitled to notice of the action, taking into account education and language differences known to the JPO. If the juvenile's parents or guardians cannot be located or are unwilling to be present and represent the interests of the juvenile, the JPO may attempt to get a Guardian Ad Litem appointed by the court prior to the proceedings.
If the juvenile is accused of an act which would be a felony if committed by an adult and if an attorney has not been appointed or retained, the JPO will advise the juvenile and the juvenile's parents that the juvenile must consult with an attorney before the right to an attorney can be waived.
Adjudication -- After a petition is filed, the JPO will schedule a court hearing. At this hearing, the judge will talk to the people concerned, look at evidence and evaluation results, and consider the youth’s history.
The judge will order an outcome for the case. This may be probation, institutionalization, formal diversion, or holding the charges in abeyance.
Formal Diversion -- Instead of pursuing formal judgment after filing a petition with the court system, the JPO may recommend court-ordered participation in a diversion program. The diversion agreement must be signed voluntarily by the juvenile, his or her parents, and, if appropriate, their attorney.
A formal diversion agreement will last no more than 12 months. The juvenile will be assigned to diversion programs as determined by the Probation Office. The JPO will make sure the juvenile is fulfilling the requirements and provide direct supervision of the juvenile.
If the court accepts the diversion agreement, no plea will be recorded, and any further hearings will be delayed. When the juvenile successfully completes the diversion agreement, the JPO will request that the court dismiss the original petition. If the juvenile violates the agreement, the JPO will go forward a formal hearing, as if the diversion never took place.
Waived to Adult Court -- A juvenile can be moved to the adult criminal justice system. This can happen automatically based on the offense referred, or a JPO may file a waiver. For a JPO to file a waiver very specific circumstances must be met and the regional Chief JPO must agree. Cased waived to adult court are prosecuted by the District Attorney.
Held in Abeyance -- At adjudication, the judge may make a ruling, but decide to delay application of a disposition This is similar to a “suspended” sentence in the adult court system. A disposition requiring supervision or institutionalization will not be carried out if the juvenile fulfills the conditions ordered, and does not reoffend during the length of the abeyance.
Withdrawn -- The JPO can choose to stop formal proceedings and withdraw the petition during the court process. This is typically in response to new information or activities.
Dismissed -- Charges that are part of a formal petition can be dismissed through the Court.
Treatment -- After a formal court hearing, a judge may require that the juvenile be placed in a DJJ treatment facility. The particular location is decided by the Division’s classification committee. During this time, DJJ is given custody of the juvenile. Staff assume the role of custodian for the juvenile.
The court order may include formal probation supervision after the juvenile is released from treatment.
Probation Supervision -- Under probation supervision, a juvenile remains at home or other community-based setting but reports regularly to a JPO. The juvenile will be expected to obey probation conditions established by the Court, such as obeying all laws, remaining in school, abstaining from alcohol and other drugs, and others.
Release -- A juvenile is released from DJJ supervision after completing the terms of his or her court order, or after “aging out” upon his or her 19th birthday. Juveniles may be maintained under DJJ supervision or custody up to their 20th birthday if they agree with this continued supervision or custody and a court grants the extension.