Juvenile Court Process


When the police complete their investigation, they will turn over the reports and facts to the prosecuting attorney who will determine what action to take. The prosecutor may decide not to file the petition, which means the case is dismissed. If the prosecutor files the petition, the petition will list the offense(s) with which the juvenile is charged. The petition is filed with the Family Division of the Circuit Court, and the court proceedings will begin.

Preliminary Inquiry

The first court hearing in a juvenile proceeding, similar to an adult court arraignment. The juvenile is informed of the offense(s) they are being charged with, and they are read their constitutional rights. The Family Division can decide any of the following:

  • Deny authorization of the petition: the court may warn the minor and dismiss the case, allowing the minor defendant to go free.
  • Voluntary Counseling: refer the minor for voluntary counseling;
  • Informal Probation: place the minor on informal probation if the minor qualifies and the judge determines it serves the minor and the public’s best interests;
    • “Juvenile Diversion Act.” Informal process by which the minor and the minor’s parent/guardian to work with a person or public or private organization or agency that will assist the minor and the minor’s family in resolving the problem that initiated the investigation.
    • “Juvenile Consent Calendar”: informal process by the minor and the parents/guardian accept the minor’s placement on the consent calendar. The minor will be placed on probation or a “correctional plan” whereby he or she must complete terms imposed by the court.
  • Formal Calendar: Charges against the minor stand, and the case proceeds.

If the minor chooses to enter a plea and admit responsibility, the court will schedule a “plea & disposition” hearing. The minor may be released with conditions imposed by the court or may be held at the Juvenile Detention Center if release into the public would endanger the minor or the public.

Pre-Trial Conference

If the minor chooses not to admit responsibility and enter a plea agreement at the preliminary inquiry, the court will schedule a pre-trial conference. The prosecutor and the attorney representing the minor will meet to exchange evidence, negotiate a plea agreement, or prepare for trial. The Crime Victim’s Right Act entitles the victims to be present at the pre-trial conference and provide input to the prosecutor.


The case may be adjudicated in three ways: outright dismissal, plea agreement, or a trial verdict. If the case proceeds to trial (in front of a judge or jury), the prosecutor has the burden of proving every element of the alleged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The minor defendant does not have the burden of proving his/her innocence.


Disposition is the process by which the court determines the appropriate punishment for the minor. It is is similar to the sentencing stage in adult court. The court will receive a disposition recommendation from the Probation Office that includes an analysis of the minor’s record, circumstances, and rehabilitation needs. The Family Division judge will make the final determination as to the terms of the disposition. The judge has wide latitude. The judge is afforded considerable latitude in imposing terms for the disposition, including the following:

  • Issue a warning to the minor and/or parents;
  • Order community service by the minor;
  • Impose in-home probation with parents, relatives or guardians;
  • Compel participation in programs (e.g., counseling, school, drug or alcohol treatment);
  • Require payment of a Crime Victim Rights assessment fee, and reimbursement of court-appointed attorney fees and other court service expenses.
  • Place the minor in a juvenile boot camp;
  • Place the minor in foster care, subject to the court’s jurisdiction;

The juvenile court process can be stressful and complex, and it requires the assistance of an experienced attorney. When you hire me, I will step in on day one and represent you or your minor through every step of the legal process. I will arm you with the knowledge necessary to make every key decision along the way. I utilize a holistic approach that consider every legal option and defense in order to preserve your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your minor’s case. If you or your minor have been accused or charged with a juvenile offense, call me today for a free initial consultation.