The following is a brief description of the process followed to prosecute a minor accused of a crime in Juvenile Court. Crimes in juvenile court are not felonies or misdemeanors. The crimes are called delinquent offenses if they are crimes that an adult can commit. The crimes are called Incorrigible offenses if they are only crimes for people under the age of 18. Examples of incorrigible offenses include possession of tobacco, runaway, truancy, etc.
When an officer has sufficient evidence to believe a minor has committed an offense, the officer will complete a referral. The referral is a form that lists the crimes an officer believes the minor committed. It also includes information about where the juvenile is living and who s/he lives with. A referral is similar to a traffic citation. The officer then sends the referral along with the police report to the juvenile probation department.
If the officer believes a juvenile has committed a crime and believes there is sufficient evidence to show that the juvenile will not be present for future hearings, will continue to commit offenses that are injuries to self or others, is wanted in another jurisdiction, or the interests of the juvenile or the public require custodial protection, the officer can request detention. The officer will contact the on call probation officer who will discuss the reasons for detention of the juvenile. If the probation officer believes one of the above conditions exist and agrees there is probable cause to believe a delinquent offense has been committed by the juvenile, the probation officer will approve detention. The officer or someone else from his/her agency will then transport the juvenile to the detention center (a jail for minors) which is located in Globe. If the juvenile is detained, a detention hearing must be held before a Superior Court Judge within 24 hours. If the juvenile is detained for a victim crime, the probation department will notify the victim of the hearing if they receive the victim’s contact information from the arresting officer.
A Detention Hearing has two parts. The first part involves a determination of probable cause. The Judge will decide if there is probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed the offenses in the referral. The Judge can make this determination from testimony or from a combination of a sworn affidavit and a petition. If the Judge determines there is not probable cause, then the juvenile will be released. If the Judge determines there is probable cause, the Judge will move to part 2. In part 2, the Judge will determine if the juvenile needs to remain detained for one of the reasons listed above. If the Juvenile is released, the Judge will set conditions alternative to detention (release conditions) and the next hearing. If the Judge orders continued detention, the next court date will generally be within one week where the Judge will review the need for detention.
The County Attorney’s Office provides the Juvenile Probation Department with a list of charges that are eligible for diversion. When the referral arrives at probation, the referral will be reviewed to determine if it is diversion eligible. If the charge is diversion eligible, a probation officer will contact the family to schedule a parental appointment. At the parental appointment, the probation officer will meet with the juvenile and at least one parent. If the juvenile is interested in having the referral handled by diversion, s/he will have to make an admission to the offense. The probation officer will then assign consequences for the juvenile to complete, usually in a 90 day period. If the juvenile successfully completes the assigned consequences, the referral is adjusted and no charges are filed. If the juvenile decides not to accept diversion, refuses to make a factual basis for the offenses on the referral, or fails to successfully complete the assigned consequences, the referral will be sent to the County Attorney’s Office for charging review.
If the juvenile is out of custody, the County Attorney’s Office receives the referral with the police report and some other documentation in a packet called an intake. The assigned Deputy County Attorney has 45 days to review the packet and make a decision about what charges, if any, should be filed. The Deputy County Attorney reviewing the intake has several choices. The charges can be declined, if there is insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction. If the charges and circumstances warrant consequences but no court intervention, the referral can be sent back to probation to handle through diversion: The Deputy County Attorney can request additional information or charges can be filed. If the prosecutor decides charges should be filed, a Petition will be prepared.
The Petition is filed with the court along with a Notice to Appear that is signed by court staff and served on the juvenile by the Constable/Probation Officer or sent to the juvenile and parents by certified mail. The Petition and Notice to Appear will give information about a provisionally appointed lawyer. If the juvenile cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the parents need to fill out a financial affidavit and present it to the Court. If the Court determines the family cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the provisional attorney will be appointed unless that lawyer has a conflict. If the charges involved a victim crime, the victim unit will send out paperwork to the victim upon the filing of the petition. The paperwork will include the date and time of the first hearing and a victim impact statement. The County Attorney’s Office also prepares a discovery packet for the defense attorney, a disclosure statement that will later be filed with the Court and a plea offer.
If the juvenile is in custody, a charging decision is generally based on information given by the arresting officer in an affidavit. The Deputy County Attorney can get additional information by contacting the arresting officer. If the juvenile remains in custody, a Petition must be filed within 24 hours of the juvenile arriving at the detention center. The police report is usually provided later on and the prosecutor may decide to amend the charges once the police report is received.
The first hearing an out of custody juvenile will attend is an Advisory Hearing. At the Advisory, the Judge will advise the juvenile of their rights, appoint an attorney for the juvenile if the family cannot afford to hire one, and generally take a plea from the juvenile. Sometimes, the juvenile will enter a denial, waiting to get more information on the case. The Judge will then set a Pre-Adjudicatory Hearing in one to four weeks. Sometimes, if the juvenile has met with a lawyer, they will enter a no agreements admission or enter a plea agreement to resolve the case at the Advisory. If that happens, the Judge will order a Pre-Disposition report and set a Disposition hearing in two to four weeks. The Judge will also order Conditions Alternative to Detention (release conditions) at the Advisory. Conditions Alternative to Detention often include no contact with victims, no contact with specific other people who may be a bad influence, drug/alcohol testing if the charged offenses include substance abuse, an order to go to school and obey parents.
The Pre-Adjudicatory hearing is generally the second hearing in a Juvenile case. At that hearing, a juvenile may accept a plea offer. If a plea agreement is entered, the Judge will order a Pre-Disposition report and set a Disposition Hearing. If the case is not going to be resolved by a plea agreement, the Judge will set an Adjudicatory Hearing (Trial). If a case is going to trial, there may be motion practice that the Court needs to address. If so, additional hearings may be scheduled.
This is a juvenile trial. A juvenile trial is similar to a felony or misdemeanor trial except that the juvenile is not entitled to a jury. The State presents their case first. Once the State rests, the Juvenile can present witnesses or evidence. After the Juvenile presents his/her case, the State has the opportunity to present additional evidence. After all evidence is presented, the parties argue their case to the Judge and the Judge will make a finding of Responsible or Not Responsible. If the Juvenile is found Responsible, the Judge will order a Pre-Disposition Report and set a Disposition Hearing. If the Juvenile is found Not Responsible, the Juvenile is released with no further hearings and no further conditions.
This is generally the last hearing in a juvenile case. This is like a sentencing hearing for adults. After reviewing the Pre-Disposition report, the Judge will impose disposition ranging from probation to commitment to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. A victim will be given the opportunity to be heard regarding the appropriate disposition. Possible terms of probation or consequences include community restitution, counseling, drug testing, mandatory attendance at school, restitution and other fees, the Read Out Program, loss of driver’s license and detention.
If a Juvenile is placed on probation and does not successfully complete the terms of probation, a petition to revoke the probation will be filed. The process is similar to the processing of a petition for delinquent or incorrigible conduct. The first hearing is an Advisory, then a Status hearing, an Admission or Revocation Hearing and finally a Disposition.