If your child is attending a hearing in Juvenile Court for the first time, you may not know what to expect. Movies and TV shows can be very dramatic and may not always portray the reality of the situation. Having obtained my Bachelor of Criminal Justice, I’ve had the opportunity to observe several types of hearings. What can you expect at an initial hearing in Juvenile Court?
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide legal advice. For answers to questions you may have about Juvenile Court in your area, please contact the Court or an attorney.
An initial hearing is the first Court hearing your child may encounter when being charged with an offense. It may also be called a preliminary hearing or an arraignment. If you plan to attend this hearing with your child, check your local Court rules.
This is the hearing where charges against your child are read. He or she may be asked if these charges are understood. Your child may be read juvenile rights as well. Although juveniles have rights, they are not the same rights that adults have in criminal cases.
Your child may be asked to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” at the initial hearing. If you are planning on getting an attorney, your child should plead “not guilty”. This gives you time to get legal representation to discuss the charges and options further. Once a plea of “guilty” is entered, it cannot be changed at a later point.
Depending on the laws in your state or county court, the initial hearing at Juvenile Court may be the only hearing your child faces. If a guilty plea was entered and the offense is minor, the judge or magistrate may make a decision regarding your child’s disposition, or sentence.
Regardless of specific rules for your area, there are some common sense tips to keep in mind for your child when attending an initial hearing at Juvenile Court:
Arrive early for your initial hearing. You or your child will need to sign in at Juvenile Court before the initial hearing so leave plenty of time to find the appropriate place to sign. You will be directed to the area in which you are to wait for the hearing.
Have your child dress nicely. Although your child doesn’t have to go all out and dress flashy for Court, he or she should be neat and clean. This is showing respect for a Court of law and that your child cares about the outcome of the case.
Ask your child to speak respectfully. This should not have to be mentioned, but you and your child should use a respectful tone when addressing those in the Courtroom. Your child will be given an opportunity to speak at the initial hearing, but may only be asked to enter your plea. Your child should answer the questions directly that are posed and answers should be kept short and to the point. There is no need for additional information to be given at this time.
Plan to be at the initial hearing for a few hours. Generally, Courts hear cases in groups. Many cases are set for the same time and they are heard one right after the other. There is the chance that many cases will be heard before your child’s and that you will have to wait.
In most cases, the initial hearing is very subdued with minimal drama or fanfare. If you have questions prior to your child’s initial hearing at Juvenile Court, contact the Court or speak with an attorney who can help you with rules and laws specific to your state and county.
NOLO Legal Solutions; Constitutional Rights in Juvenile Proceedings
Juvenile Delinquency; What Happens in a Typical Juvenile Case?
Bachelor of Criminal Justice
Observations in Juvenile Court, Athens County, Ohio