The Juvenile Delinquency Court Process in Indiana

Being charged with a crime is stressful. The criminal justice system can be a cumbersome, confusing process for anyone to navigate. This is true not only for adults, but also for juveniles accused of committing what would be deemed crimes if they were over eighteen. This blog will spell out the juvenile delinquency process in a general sense in hopes of answering questions that parents and/or juveniles may have when faced with a delinquency case in juvenile court.

How Does The Juvenile Court Process Work?

There are a few important things to understand about the juvenile court process at the outset:

  1. Probation is extremely involved in every case, even if the ultimate disposition of the case doesn’t include a probation term. In the juvenile system, probation has several important functions that differ from the adult system. Judges in the juvenile system typically give great deference to recommendations put forth by probation. Probation is typically there, in court, to advise the judge at every hearing. Probation also has the ability of allowing first time juvenile offenders an Informal Adjustment, in which the child would have the chance to complete behavior modification programming without ever having to go to court.
  2. There is no bond in juvenile delinquency cases. Instead, the court will balance the best interests of the child with the safety considerations of the community. If the offense is violent in nature, and especially if the juvenile has had prior true findings (the juvenile equivalent of a conviction), probation will likely recommend that the juvenile be detained pending disposition of the case. If the child is detained, their case must be set for trial within 20 (twenty) business days.

What Happens After a Juvenile Arrest?

After an arrest, juveniles will be sent to the local juvenile detention facility and his or her parents will be notified. Either at that time, or at some scheduled time in the future, probation will conduct an interview with the juvenile and their parent in order to complete a report known as a Preliminary Inquiry. The purpose of this report is to give the Court a snapshot into the juvenile’s life. The report will contain basic family information as well as any delinquency history on the juvenile’s record. At the conclusion of the report, the probation officer will make a recommendation to the judge as to what, if any, release conditions should be imposed if the juvenile is to be released from the juvenile detention facility while the case is pending.

The judge will read the Preliminary Inquiry at the initial hearing and will make the decision whether to detain or release the child back to the community. After the initial hearing, the process is more similar to the adult criminal justice system. The case will likely be set for a pre-trial, or status conference before a trial setting. At trial, the state must still prove each of element of each offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Juveniles do not have the right to a jury trial, and all trials in juvenile delinquency court are heard by a judge.

If there is a true finding in a juvenile delinquency case, the Judge has several options as to what type of disposition (or sentence) to impose. The judge may choose to order a Pre-Disposition Report, which is another report written by probation that includes more information about the child and their home life. The Pre-Disposition Report also contains a section for both the child and the parent to give their thoughts on the facts of the case. Probation will again make a recommendation to the judge as to if they think formal probation is an appropriate resolution, or if placement outside the home would be more suitable. The juvenile court judge has the authority to release the child back to his/her guardians, or to remove the child from the home. The judge could place the child at the Juvenile Department of Corrections, or at some other residential treatment facility for a period of time in hopes the juvenile will correct their behavior.

What if The Child is Sent to the Juvenile Department of Corrections?

If the judge decides to commit the child to the Juvenile Department of Corrections, the period will be for either a determinate or an indeterminate amount of time. If the judge issues a determinate sentence, the child will be confined for a set amount of time for up to two years. If the judge issues an indeterminate sentence, the length of confinement will be up to the Department of Corrections and will largely depend on how the child responds to treatment within the facility.

It is crucial to have an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney that is well versed in the juvenile delinquency process. If a loved one is facing a juvenile delinquency case, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC. We are available at all times by calling us at (317) 870-0019, or by emailing info@banksbrower.com.