Juveniles in Philadelphia commit crimes every day. Some are unique to juveniles, such as curfew violations, but most of the crimes are the same types of crimes committed by adults. The juvenile justice system is different than the adult system though, and the punishments and consequences are different than those in the adult system. However, before these consequences are imposed, the juvenile must go through the juvenile justice process.
After being arrested or charged with a crime, one of two things will occur: the child will either be detained or released to the child’s parents. If released to the parents, the child will then go through the intake process and the charge will either be dismissed, the child will be offered diversion or a petition will be filed. If the child is detained, a detention hearing will be held. At that hearing a petition will be filed.
In either case, if a petition is filed, one of three things will then occur: a consent decree, the child will be transferred to adult court, or there will be an Adjudicatory Hearing, which is basically a trial before a judge. After this hearing the charges will be dismissed, the child will admit guilt or he or she will be adjudicated delinquent, which means a judge finds the child committed the crime.
If the child admits guilt or is adjudicated delinquent by a judge, a disposition hearing will be held to determine the child’s punishment. At this hearing, the child will either be placed on supervised probation or placed at a juvenile detention center of some kind. There will then be review hearings to check on the child’s progress and after the child has completed the punishment the case will be closed.
As one can see, the juvenile justice system is similar to the adult system in terms of process, but has its differences. The child ultimately does still have a right to a trial to determine guilt. What happens before the trial and after the trial can be complicated though. Experienced attorneys understand the process and potential defenses and may be able to help protect a juvenile’s rights.
Source: Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice, “A Family Guide to Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System” accessed on February 2, 2015