Juvenile Court v. Adult Court
The juvenile court system is, in many respects, are quite similar to court systems that process adults. However, there are some very important differences. Some of them are:
- Both the juvenile and his/her parents or legal guardians come under the jurisdiction of the court.
- Parents or legal guardians can be held responsible, along with the juvenile, if the juvenile fails to meet his/her obligations (financial or otherwise) to the court.
- The Juvenile Court Judge makes the final determination as to the guilt or innocence of a juvenile. Juveniles are not entitled to jury trials.
- There are no fines in juvenile court (except for curfew violations) but there are court and/or probation fees and possibly restitution to the victim(s).
All juvenile cases begin with the prosecuting attorney filing a juvenile petition with the court. The juvenile petition is similar to an adult criminal complaint. The juvenile petition alleges what the juvenile has done, or not done, which causes him to come under the purview of the juvenile justice system.
The juvenile's first appearance in court is at a proceeding called an Admit/Deny Hearing. During the hearing, the juvenile and his/her parents or guardians are informed of the charge or charges filed against the juvenile, the maximum possible penalties that the court could impose if the juvenile pleads or is found guilty, and the juvenile's constitutional rights. The court will also ask the juvenile if he/she intends to hire their own attorney of if he/she needs to have an attorney appointed to represent him/her. In general, the court considers nearly every juvenile indigent and, if requested, will appoint an attorney to represent the juvenile. In cases where the juvenile has been arrested and held in a detention facility, the court also discusses whether the juvenile should be released or remain in custody. If the juvenile pleads guilty at the Admit/Deny Hearing, the court will order that the Nez Perce County Juvenile Probation Department prepare a social history, called a Pre-Disposition Report, and schedules a disposition/sentencing hearing to be held on a later date. If the juvenile denies the charges (pleads not guilty), the court will set the matter for final pretrial conference and an Adjudicatory Hearing (trial).
Final Pretrial Conference
The purpose of a final pretrial conference is to bring the parties together to determine if they can reach a satisfactory resolution to the case. If the prosecution, the defense for the juvenile and/or the juvenile and his/her parents or legal guardians reach an agreement, that agreement will be presented to the judge and a disposition/sentencing hearing will be scheduled. If the parties cannot reach a resolution, the matter will proceed to Adjudicatory Hearing (trial).
Adjudicatory Hearing (Trial)
Evidentiary Hearings are trials decided by the magistrate judge.
A disposition/sentencing hearing is the last regular hearing held before the court. Victims have a right to address the court at these hearings. The prosecution argues to the court what an appropriate sentence should be, as does the juvenile. The prosecution and the juvenile can call witnesses and introduce evidence to support their position about the appropriate sentence. The court will address the issue of detention time. When applicable, the court will also discuss the suspension of the juvenile's driver's license and the restitution the juvenile must pay to the victim.
In certain cases the court can place the juvenile on probation. Probation is supervised by the court or, more commonly, by the Nez Perce County Juvenile Probation Department. Probation means that the court suspends the requirement that the juvenile serve the sentence that was given, but is required to do certain things in exchange for suspending the sentence. These things can include counseling, community service, random urinalysis, school attendance and passing grades, curfews, attending classes offered by the Juvenile Probation Department, and restrictions on associating with certain people or going to certain businesses or locations.