The Juvenile Justice System

If you were victimized by someone under the age of 18, the offender is considered a juvenile, and your case will be handled differently than if the offender is an adult. The primary difference is an emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Juveniles are not convicted of a crime, but are found to be delinquent, and their records are not made available to the public.

Not All Juvenile Offenders Are Sent to Court

If the offender is a juvenile, the police typically file a “complaint” about the juvenile suspect with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). New cases are reviewed by an intake officer at the local DJJ office. The intake officer will contact any victim involved in the complaint. The intake officer will decide whether to close the case, place the juvenile on informal supervision, send the youth to a treatment program, or forward the case to the State’s Attorney office for a formal hearing in Juvenile Court. The intake officer has 90 days to take action on the case. You will receive a letter advising the decision and your right to appeal if the case is closed. An appeal must be filed within 30 days.

Juvenile Delinquency

A juvenile is considered delinquent if he commits an act which would be a crime if committed by an adult. More serious juvenile complaints go directly to the State’s Attorney’s office to be handled in Juvenile Court. This depends on the severity of the delinquent act, the youth’s age, and prior delinquent record. For juvenile complainants involving a serious delinquent act, the State’s Attorney may request that the juvenile be tried as an adult in Circuit Court. A Circuit Court judge rules on this request at a “Waiver Hearing” and determines if the case will be heard in Circuit or Juvenile Court.

What Happens in Juvenile Court?

The State’s Attorney must take action within 30 days. There are several types of hearings that may occur:

Detention Hearing: If the juvenile is considered dangerous or his/her well-being is threatened, a hearing will be held by a Juvenile Court judge to decide whether or not to detain the juvenile in a secure facility for up to 30 days, or to release him to the custody of a parent or guardian.

Adjudicatory Hearing: This hearing is held in Juvenile Court to determine if the juvenile who committed the offense is “delinquent.” It must take place within 60 days. As in an adult case, the juvenile is entitled to an attorney, and the attorney may contact you before the hearing to try to discover information to help the juvenile offender. However, you are not required to talk to the juvenile’s attorney or his representative.

Disposition Hearing: If the offender is found delinquent, the judge will hold a separate disposition hearing to determine the juvenile’s needs. He may be placed on probation, placed in the custody of a juvenile justice facility, or ordered to participate in appropriate services.

Restitution Hearing: If the juvenile is found to be delinquent, a restitution hearing may be held. The State must prove that the victim’s personal property was stolen, damaged or destroyed, and/or that there were medical or funeral expenses for the victim as a result of the delinquent act. If the court determines that restitution should be paid, the judge will enter a judgment of restitution against the juvenile. The court may also hold the juvenile’s parents liable for the expenses in an amount not to exceed $10,000.00. Restitution may be a condition of the juvenile’s probation.

How Do I Find Out About My Case?

For information about your case, contact your local Department of Juvenile Justice office listed in the University Police Resources page.

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