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What to expect at a juvenile adjudicatory hearing

Many adults who commit crimes go through the criminal justice system in Philadelphia. There is a hearing process that must be followed and an order to what happens at each of those hearings. Similarly, if a juvenile is accused of a crime, they will also go through a process known as the juvenile law system. There are many similarities between the two systems, but there are differences as well, which take into consideration the age and maturity of the juveniles.

In either system though, there needs to be a finding that a person is guilty of a crime before they can be convicted. In the juvenile justice system, this hearing is called an adjudicatory hearing.

The hearing must be held promptly after the filing of a petition. At the hearing, the judge will ultimately make the decision, there are no juries in the juvenile system. The rest of the hearing will be similar to a trial in the adult system. The prosecutor will have the burden of presenting evidence that the juvenile is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

After the hearing, the judge has seven days to make his or her ruling in the matter. If the judge decides that the juvenile did not commit the act, then they must be released, if detained. The court must also expunge the records and destroy any fingerprints or photographs of the juvenile. If the judge finds that the juvenile did commit the act, he or she must make specific findings about it, and then determine whether the juvenile is in need of treatment or rehabilitation.

Many juveniles are accused of committing crimes in Philadelphia. These juveniles are innocent until proven guilty. Whether they are guilty will be determined at an adjudicatory hearing. There may be defenses available to the juvenile though, and simply being charged with a crime does not mean one is guilty.

Source: PaCourts.us, “Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure, Chapter 4,” accessed on Oct. 4, 2016


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