Juvenile delinquency proceedings occur when juveniles under age 17 charged with a violation of a criminal law or ordinance, or with a status offense.  Delinquency proceedings occur within the Family Division of the 33rd Circuit Court, commonly referred to as Probate Court. 

If the juvenile is found responsible for the offense, the court may order a juvenile disposition (similar to sentencing in adult court), such as placing the juvenile on probation or committing the juvenile to the custody of the state, which would be called a P.A.150 commitment.

The Juvenile Court has several options on how it can proceed when a petition or complaint is filed.

The Court may:

1) deny authorization of the petition;

2) refer the matter to voluntary counseling under the Juvenile Diversion Act. These cases are handled without official action of the Court and no official record is made;

3) direct the matter for further informal inquiry;

4) place the matter on the consent calendar; or,

5) place the matter on the formal calendar.

If a petition is filed at the Juvenile Court the juvenile may be called to the Juvenile Court for a Preliminary Hearing. The Prosecution presents evidence from which the Judge or Juvenile Referee decides whether or not there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed by the juvenile.

At this time, the juvenile has the very same rights as he/she would have if the police were questioning them, and in addition, the juvenile has the right to bring witnesses in to testify on their behalf, to confront and question those testifying against the juvenile.

The Judge or Referee may require bail be posted as a condition of the juvenile's release or they may be ordered into detention pending trial. If bond is required, both parents and the youth will be required to sign a bond form indicating understanding of the terms and what may happen if those terms are violated.

As in adult court, a juvenile accused is presumed innocent of the charge unless they admit guilt or the Court or jury finds them guilty. If the juveniles deny the charges they may request a trial before the attorney referee or a trial before the Judge either with or without a jury.

At trial the juvenile has the right to be represented by a lawyer, the right to remain silent, the right to ask questions of those who testify and the right to bring in witnesses to help prove their innocence; and the juvenile also has the right to testify or not to testify and not have their silence used against them.

All the parties will be introduced to the Court and the Petition will be read into the Court record. If the juvenile admits to the charges in the petition, or the Court or jury decides after the hearing that the allegations are true, the Court will take jurisdiction over the juvenile.

Status offenses are a special category of illegal behaviors that apply only to juveniles and would not be considered illegal if done by an adult. The most common of these are:

  • School Truancy
  • Running Away from Home
  • Curfew Violations
  • Incorrigibility

The Juvenile Court policy regarding status offenders is based on the philosophy that they are most effectively handled on adiversionary basis by a counseling agency other than the Court with all efforts directed at keeping the family intact. Juvenile Court's jurisdiction over status offenses will be exercised as a last resort after finding that all voluntary resources have been exhausted.

The Court normally will not accept a petition unless:

  • the child deserted his/her home without sufficient cause and the Court can find on the record that the child has been placed or refused alternative placement or the child and the child's parent, guardian, or custodian have exhausted or refused family counseling; or, 
  • the child is repeatedly disobedient to the reasonable and lawful commands of his or her parents, guardian, or custodian and the Court can find on the record that by clear and convincing evidence that court-accessed services are necessary; or,
  • the child willingly and repeatedly absents himself or herself from school or other learning program intended to meet the child's educational needs, or repeatedly violates rules and regulations of the school or other learning program, and the Court can find on record that the child, the child's parent, guardian, or custodian, and school officials or learning program personnel have met on the child's educational problems, and educational counseling and alternative agency help have been sought. As used in this subparagraph only learning program means an organized educational program that is appropriate , given the age, intelligence, ability, and psychological limitations of a child, in the subject areas of reading, spelling, mathematics, science, history, civics, writing, and English grammar.

The Court normally will not authorize a petition for formal hearings on a child until reports from previous agencies who have worked with the parent and child are received and the reports indicate a sincere effort was made to resolve the problem.

If a petition is authorized for a formal hearing, parents must submit a financial statement with the Financial Clerk of the Juvenile Court.  Children will be assigned a court-appointed attorney as required by law. Parents are normally held responsible for all or a portion of the cost of the court-appointed attorney.

If a child is removed from his/her home the cost or part of the cost for the child's care will be at the parent's expense.

If the Court exercises jurisdiction over a child, it will require the juvenile and his/her family to follow a treatment plan that is designed to meet the best interests of the child. The Court is required by law to use the least restrictive placement available. The Court will consider continuing placement in the child's own home, private foster home, or relative's home prior to any institutional placement.

A petition authorized for formal court proceedings will require a number of court hearings. The law requires the parents and child to appear at all court proceedings.

All Court dispositions on status petitions will include both the child's and parent's participation in counseling, parent education, and/or psychological testing and other treatment efforts.