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Juvenile Detention Hearings in Pennsylvania

Juvenile criminal cases require different procedures than adult criminal cases.  This entry will deal with a situation where a juvenile is detained prior to an adjudication hearing.  This entry will provide a brief overview of the the statutory requirements for detention hearings.

First, where a juvenile is detained for pending criminal charges, he must receive a prompt "detention hearing" which must be held within 72 hours of initial detention.  The only time this prompt hearing may be extended is where evidence is unavailable, the District Attorney has done its due dilligence to obtain this evidence, the evidence will likely be available at a later time, and where detention of the juvenile is proper.

The Court must provide notice of the hearing to the juvenile, juvenile's guardians, juvenile's attorney, juvenile's probation officer, and any other interested persons.

At the hearing, the juvenile is told of his rights to an attorney, right to remain silent, and informed of his charges.  The detention hearing, itself, is informal.  The hearing judge considers any relevant oral or written reports, as well as, any other information which would be helpful to his determination.

The first portion of the hearing is known as the "probable cause determination."  During this portion, the hearing judge must listen to the evidence regarding the charges and determine if there is probable cause that a crime was committed and it was the juvenile who probably committed the crime, in order for the case to move forward.  Note** this is not an adjudication hearing. 

If the judge determines that there is probable cause, the next portion of the hearing focuses on whether the juvenile should be detained.  At this portion, the defense attorney may argue the strength of the case against the juvenile, including credibility of any witnesses, the juvenile's background, family situation, mental and physical well-being, etc.

Although a detention is informal and does not deal with adjudication, it is a vital part in the juvenile process and is equally important to have an attorney present.  If you or someone you know is involved in the juvenile criminal system, contact the experienced attorneys at the Kelly Law Firm for a free consultation.

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