Chester County Juvenile Court Lawyer
Juvenile Court in Chester County
Some parents are shocked and some are shamed but most are confounded by the receipt of a letter from a Juvenile Probation Office, like the Chester County Juvenile Probation Office, notifying them that a matter has been “referred” to them because of the alleged actions of their child.
It may be second nature to contact the police officer or the “jpo” (the juvenile probation officer) first before understanding juvenile law in pennsylvania, juvenile procedure and how the juvenile court system works. When your child and his or her future is on the line, it makes the best sense to get objective, valued advice and consultation on how the juvenile court system works and how juvenile court rules and procedure will impact your beloved minor child.
The Plan: Get Answers and An Experienced, Caring Defense Lawyer
What is Juvenile Court? Is it the same as adult court? Is my son or daughter facing incarceration? In Chester County, the Juvenile Court consists of both issues regarding allegations of criminal action (delinquency matters involving Juvenile Probation) as well as dependency matters involving the Department of Children, Youth and Family Services. Both the Chester County Juvenile Court and Chester County Juvenile Probation are located within the Chester County Justice Center at 201 W. Market Street, West Chester PA.
An accusation of a misdemeanor or felony offense by a juvenile can result in either an arrest and immediate detention or by a “referral” by the police to the Juvenile Probation Office, who then sends notice to the parent. A delinquent act is an act that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult. When a child is found guilty of committing a delinquent act, he or she is adjudicated delinquent, which is not the same thing as being convicted of a crime. Though a summary offense like underage drinking or retail theft is serious, it is handled by a district magisterial judge rather than Juvenile Court.
The Juvenile Probation Office manages juveniles between the ages of ten and seventeen who are accused of criminal action referred by local police departments, agencies or private citizens as a result of having committed a crime which is considered to be a misdemeanor or a felony. Juvenile Probation Officers are involved in the initial “interview” process, as well as supervising minors placed on probation and making sure that they follow the rules of probation. Have questions about the role of a juvenile probation officer in the prosecution of your child?
Juvenile Court Intake
All juveniles referred are processed through the Juvenile Court Intake Unit. The Juvenile Intake Officer is responsible for screening and investigating the referral, determining the method of handling and making referrals to other agencies when appropriate. This process may involve an interview with the child, parents, school personnel, other agencies (if involved) and the referring agent. A reasonable question to ask is whether statements taken by a Juvenile Probation Officer, Ie. (Chester County Juvenile Probation Officer or Lancaster County JPO, etc) can be used against your child and your family. Learn more by contacting our experienced criminal defense lawyers.
Understanding the Chester County Juvenile Delinquency Case
The Juvenile Probation Office and the District Attorney’s Office review their findings from the initial referral to determine whether the case should be handled informally or through a formal hearing.
1. Informal Process: Depending on the seriousness of the crime, prior record, cooperation of the juvenile and parent, school records, and whether the juvenile admits to the crime, a juvenile can be handled informally without being petitioned into Juvenile Court. The Juvenile Act permits the Juvenile Probation Office to provide services not to exceed six months from the date of disposition unless extended for a maximum period of three months by the Court. During this period of time, the juvenile would be supervised by a juvenile probation officer and would be required to adhere to the rules of probation as well as be involved in specialized services when required.
2. Formal Process: After the filing of a Petition in Delinquency and the forwarding of a copy of the petition to the juvenile, parents and attorney (if the juvenile is represented), a probation officer will schedule an appointment for an interview with above parties. It is at this time the probation officer will review the petition filed with the parents and child and advise them of their constitutional rights. If the juvenile desires to remain silent or denies the charge(s) cited within the petition, the case will then be scheduled for an adjudication hearing only. However, if the juvenile admits the charge(s), then the case will be scheduled for an adjudication/disposition hearing.
Where a formal hearing is deemed appropriate, a juvenile can either be eligible for either a “consent decree” or an adjudication hearing to determine if the Commonwealth can prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt:
a). Consent Decree: A process by which the Court orders the juvenile to remain in his own home under the terms and conditions negotiated with the Juvenile Probation Office and agreed by all parties affected. If the Juvenile fulfills the obligations agreed upon in the Consent Decree and completes the period of supervision without reinstatement, the juvenile shall not undergo proceedings in any Court for the same offense alleged in the petition.
b). Adjudication Hearing: A hearing where the Court determines if in fact the charge(s) filed are substantiated beyond a reasonable doubt. If the juvenile is found to have committed the charge(s), the case is then scheduled for a disposition hearing. However, if the Court finds that the Commonwealth has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile committed the charge(s) then the Court will dismiss the Petition in Delinquency.
After the adjudication hearing and prior to the disposition hearing, the probation officer is responsible for investigating the background of the juvenile, family, school records, employment, and any other agency involvement. The juvenile may receive a psychiatric/psychological and/or drug/alcohol evaluation to determine if there are any exceptional problems or concerns. This information is compiled into a Psycho-Social Case History which is presented to the Court at the disposition hearing. Additionally, the probation officer will make a recommendation to the Court as to the needs of the juvenile.
c). Disposition Hearing: It is at this time, the Court decides what is for the best interest of the juvenile, family and community. In doing so, the Court will review the case records, psychiatric/psychological, drug/alcohol evaluation and any other relevant information provided by those in attendance. The Court will acknowledge those who wish to provide additional information concerning the juvenile and the issues before the Court.
At the Disposition Hearing, the Court can make the following dispositions:
I. Dismissal: In this case the Court does not find the juvenile delinquent and the juvenile is released from the jurisdiction of the Court.
ii. Probation (Regular, Intensive or School-Based): A process whereby the juvenile is placed on probation under the supervision of the Juvenile Probation Office subject to the conditions, rules and limitations as prescribed by the Court. These conditions, rules and limitations may include Court costs, loss of driver’s license, restitution to the victim, and involvement in special Court services (ie: Sex Offender Program, Intensive Probation Services. Impaired Drivers Program, Volunteers and Community Services, Drug and Alcohol and Special Offender Services).
Additionally, the Court may order the juvenile to attend any of the following: the Pathways program(sex offenses), Multisystemic Therapy, the Weekend Alternative Program, or the Lancaster Area Victim Reconciliation Program.
iii. Commitment: This occurs when the Court believes that placement outside the juvenile’s home is necessary for the treatment and rehabilitation of the juvenile. This may involve foster care, group home care, private institutional care, public institutional care, alternative to secure care or secure care. The aforementioned services are all 24 hour care programs. Whenever the juvenile is placed outside the home, the Court will direct the parents to meet with the Domestic Relations Office to determine whether or not financial support will be required from them.
As required by law, a juvenile who is in commitment is required to have either a six month review or a six month dispositional review hearing. Additionally, some juveniles are required to have a nine month dispositional review hearing.
Alternatives to Detention in Chester County
The Electronic Home Monitoring Program was established by the Chester County Court of Common Pleas to be a cost effective alternative to secure detention for alleged / adjudicated delinquents. The program is administered in cooperation with the Juvenile Probation Department.
The purpose of electronic monitoring use is to allow juveniles to be released from detention to return home where they will have limited access to the community, but still able to attend school, work, or be involved in approved activities. The program shall function at the direction of the court under an agreement between the juvenile, parent / guardian and the court. Some juveniles may be approved by the Court for involvement in the In-Home Detention Services Program with Electronic Monitoring, which is designed to give youth, who are detained, an opportunity to return to their homes under intense supervision and rules while awaiting their hearing in Juvenile Court.
The Use of Detention In Juvenile Cases
Those juveniles who meet the standards can be detained in secure detention. Juveniles who do not meet the secure detention eligibility standards but require the use of alternative care are placed in emergency shelter or in foster care pending a hearing in Court. In either of the above situations, a Petition in Delinquency must be filed within 24 hours from the date of admission; a detention hearing must be held within 72 hours from the date of admission to detention or alternative care; and an adjudication hearing must be held within 10 days from the filing of the petition. Additionally, if the juvenile is remanded to secure detention or alternative care after the adjudication hearing, a disposition hearing must be held within 20 days. During the time a juvenile is detained in secure detention, a detention review process must be completed by the Court every 10 days after disposition.
Aggressive Representation in Juvenile Cases
Speak to an experienced aggressive legal team about your juvenile case. Contact the defense lawyer at Ciccarelli Law Offices at (610) 692-8700 or (877) 529-2422 for legal advice, a free consultation or representation for your child or loved one’s pending juvenile referral or charges. Our defense team is based in suburban Philadelphia at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380.