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The Juvenile Justice Process in Virginia

Depending on the age of the person and the crime and circumstances, some offenses are referred to the juvenile justice system for prosecution. For this purpose, “juveniles” include anyone under the age of 18 at the time of the offense. Some juveniles are transferred to the adult criminal justice system if they are charged with a felony and if the offenses were serious. This article outlines the process that a young person will follow if they are arrested and charged with a crime as a juvenile.

  • First, the juvenile commits a crime or violation and it is reported to or witnessed by law enforcement or other authorities.
  • Depending on the offense, law enforcement will take the juvenile into custody or issue a ticket that requires a later appearance in court.
  • The juvenile court begins its intake process and decides whether to take formal or informal action. Informal action is usually used with first time offenders and other situations where there may be extenuating circumstances. Informal actions are diversion programs that can include referrals to counselors, shelters, or other programs.
  • If the juvenile court decides to do a formal intake, then the intake officer will file a formal petition with the court.
  • At the time that a formal petition is filed the court must decide whether the individual will be held in custody or released to his or her parents or guardians. The intake officer will make this decision based on the flight risk of the juvenile as well as the risk of the juvenile to him or herself and others.
  • If the juvenile is detained, there must be a hearing within 72 hours to decide whether the juvenile should stay incarcerated in a juvenile detention center or be released. The hearing is in front of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
  • Similar to the adult court process, there is an adjudicatory hearing where the state and the juvenile have an opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence. At this hearing the judge will decide whether the juvenile is guilty or not guilty of the offenses charged. If the judge finds the juvenile not guilty, then the youth is released. If the judge finds the young person guilty of the charges then the next step is sentencing, known as a “disposition” in juvenile justice court.
  • Before the disposition is handed down, a judge will usually order a pre-sentence report. A pre-sentence report investigates the youth’s background and accomplishments and states whether the juvenile is still in school and/or working and gives the judge an understanding of the juvenile’s situation. The disposition can include warnings, fines, and restitution. The judge can also order that the juvenile comply with services and programs and complete community service hours.

Leesburg, Virginia Juvenile Justice Attorney

If your child or another loved one under 18 is charged with a crime in Loudoun county, Fairfax county or Prince William county, you need to contact a skilled juvenile justice attorney as soon as possible to help defend them against the charges. Our experienced juvenile justice attorneys at Simms Showers in Leesburg, Virginia can help present the best defense.

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