Colorado Juvenile Justice: What Happens in Juvenile Court?

Being charged with a crime as a minor is a scary experience for both the offender and his parents. Not knowing what expect, as well as having very little knowledge of the law as it pertains to juvenile offenders, further adds to the stress. A criminal defense attorney who is experienced with juvenile cases can alleviate a lot of the stress and address many concerns. He can explain the law and make sure the defendant’s rights are protected through the entire legal process.

Minors usually end up in juvenile court when they commit an act that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult; they commit an act that is not a crime unless you are a minor, such as truancy or disobeying a parent, and; they suffer abuse or neglect by a parent(s). A juvenile case usually begins someone deciding what to do with a minor charged with a crime. This someone is usually a juvenile intake officer–usually a probation officer or a prosecutor. The intake officer decides whether to dismiss the matter and release the minor back into the custody of his parents; informally handle the matter; or file formal charges.

If the intake officer decides to handle the matter informally, the minor ends up appearing before a judge or probation officer. He may receive a stern lecture and/or be required to undergo counseling or attend after-school classes. He may also be ordered to make restitution for any damages, pay a fine, perform community service or go on probation.

If the intake officer decides to file formal charges, a petition is filed with juvenile court and the case is placed on the court’s calendar. The minor is formally charged before a juvenile court, whom may take jurisdiction or transfer the case to adult criminal court. If the case stays in juvenile court, the minor enters a plea agreement or faces trial. If the judge concludes that the youth is guilty of the charges, he then imposes a sentence. If the case transfer to adult court, the minor will be required to attend a fitness hearing to determine whether he should be tried as a juvenile instead.

Some potential sentences include:

  • court-imposed curfew
  • wearing an ankle monitor for a specified length of time
  • undergoing psychological evaluation
  • serving a specified number of days in juvenile detention
  • being ordered to stay away from certain friends or not associate with gangs or other individuals on probation or who are charged with criminal misconduct
  • court-ordered counseling or drug/alcohol treatment program
  • being ordered to live in a foster or group home, or at a locked facility for specified period of time.
Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney Kevin Ellmann
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