Learning that your child has been arrested and is being detained for an alleged criminal offense is among the most frightening experiences you will ever have as a parent. The arrest is the first step in a process that most parents have never experienced before, and the anxiety over what may lie ahead can sometimes be overwhelming.
A qualified lawyer can help take the mystery out of the juvenile court process and give you the peace of mind you need as your child's case moves forward. At Law Offices of Kelly & Conte in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we have extensive experience with juvenile court hearings and trials. Our attorneys have a complete understanding of the law in these matters, and we can help you navigate these often complex and emotional processes.
Understanding The Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Process
The following is a brief overview of what you can expect as your child's case moves through the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court process:
- The first step in the process is an intake meeting or detention hearing. Intake meetings typically occur with less serious crimes. These are conducted with a juvenile probation officer. You and your child will be present at this meeting. A standard drug test is common at intake meetings. Detention hearings are held before a hearing master. The hearing master will determine probable cause and decide whether your child will be detained or released into your custody. We will be there to advocate for your child's release into your custody and work to ensure that he or she is allowed to return home as soon as possible.
- If the hearing master finds probable cause, a petition will be filed with the court and the case is assigned to a judge and an adjudication hearing is scheduled. At the adjudication hearing, your child will have the option of either admitting that he or she committed the alleged offense or having a hearing on the matter. This is where we get to present our defense. Between the time the petition is filed and the adjudication hearing, we will conduct a thorough investigation into your child's case. We will give you our best recommendation regarding how to proceed at the hearing, but the final decision will lie with your child. In every case, we will do everything in our power to secure the best available outcome for your child.
- After the adjudication hearing, the judge has seven days to issue a ruling regarding whether your child committed the alleged offenses. If the court finds no fault, your child will be released and the case will be closed. If the judge does find fault, the next step in the process is an adjudication of delinquency hearing. The court will determine if your child needs treatment or supervision. If not, your child will be released. If so, an order will be entered that identifies your child as delinquent.
- The final step in the process is the disposition hearing. If necessary, this hearing is used to map out the rehabilitation program for your child. Disposition hearings are somewhat informal and the recommendations are specific to the unique circumstances of your child's case. The recommendations that come out of these hearings are intended to provide your child with the tools necessary to be a productive member of society and to support victims' interests. Children adjudicated delinquent of charges can be put in placement at juvenile facilities until they reach the age of 21. Defendants adjudicated delinquent of certain sex offenses will be placed on Megan's Law and may also be placed in juvenile facilities.
As you can see, the juvenile court process is designed more to rehabilitate young people than to punish them. Our attorneys have helped countless minors who were facing serious charges for offenses ranging from theft and assault to sex crimes and drug violations. You can rely on us to be there with you at every step, constantly working to protect your child's future.
Contact Our West Chester Office To Discuss Your Juvenile Court Questions
We understand what is at stake in juvenile crime cases. Contact our office to schedule a free initial consultation to speak with a juvenile crimes defense attorney and learn more about our services. You can reach us by phone at 610-314-7066 or send us an email to arrange an appointment.