Any minor (under 18 years of age) who is accused of committing a delinquent act can be prosecuted in the Juvenile Court system. If a juvenile is arrested they are immediately screened by the Department of Juvenile Justice to determine if they qualify to be held securely at the Juvenile Detention center, released on Home Detention/Supervised Release, or directly released without any restrictions.
This determination is made, in part, from a Risk Assessment that assigns the child a “score” based off the seriousness of the charge, prior offenses, prior failures to appear, age, etc. (Scale: 6 or less = Release; 7 to 12= Supervised Release; 13 or more= Detain).
If a child scores to be held in secure detention they will have a detention hearing within 24 hours. At that detention hearing a Judge will review the arrest report and determine if there was probable cause for their arrest. That Judge will also review the Risk Assessment to determine if the score is accurate. The Judge can then reassess if the child will remain in secure detention, be released on an electronic GPS ankle monitor with supervision, released to supervised home detention or released without any restrictions. A child can only be held in secure detention or supervised home detention for up to 21 days. There are rare statutory exceptions to this rule.
If a juvenile has no prior history and are accused of committing a minor delinquent act the State Attorney has the discretion to offer to resolve the case in a diversionary program handled separately from the court system.
A juvenile has the right to resolve their case by either plea or adjudicatory hearing (trial). If a juvenile chooses to exercise their constitutional rights and request an adjudicatory hearing a Judge will hear the case and decide if that juvenile is guilty or not guilty.
If a juvenile either enters a plea of guilty/no contest to their charge or are found guilty at trial a disposition hearing can be set. The Department of Juvenile Justice will be ordered to complete a Pre-Disposition Report and may be instructed to complete a multi-disciplinary staffing and make a recommendation to the Judge as to what disposition the child should receive.
The Judge can order a child to complete juvenile probation or order the child to a residential commitment program run by the Department of Juvenile Justice. The Department of Juvenile Justice and Juvenile court system retain jurisdiction over a juvenile through a juvenile’s 18 year until they turn 19 (not withstanding jurisdictional limits per charge). In certain circumstances a juvenile can be held in a residential commitment program until they turn 21 years old. A child and their parents can be ordered to pay restitution resulting from the charge. The Juvenile Court retains jurisdiction over restitution indefinitely until the restitution is paid.
Any juvenile, 14 years old to 16 years old can be prosecuted as an adult if they meet certain statutory requirements. Any juvenile 16 years old or older can be prosecuted as an adult at the discretion of the State Attorney’s office.