Most Colorado parents raise their children without ever encountering the state’s juvenile justice system. However, all kids make mistakes or have lapses in judgment, and it can be easy for a teen to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sometimes, these missteps and misfortunes involve breaking the law, even unintentionally. When that panicky call comes from your child or a law enforcement officer advises you that they have detained your child for committing a crime, it can be shocking and scary. There are a lot of misconceptions about Colorado’s juvenile justice system, and not knowing what to expect can send parents scrambling for answers as they try to figure out the best way to help their child through the ordeal.
How a Juvenile Case in Colorado Springs Proceeds
Juveniles facing charges for delinquent acts don’t face prosecution, they face “adjudication.” Substantively, the process is still focused on determining whether the child committed the alleged offense and what the consequences should be if they are found to have done so. But the mechanics are different than what adults face, unless the child is charged as an adult for certain violent crimes. Additionally, while the adult criminal justice system emphasizes punishment after a crime has been committed, the juvenile system takes an approach that favors rehabilitation.
Here is how a juvenile case will typically proceed in Colorado Springs:
- Arrest and temporary custody. When a minor is detained by police for an alleged offense, the parents should be contacted immediately. The child should refrain from making statements to the police, but know that any such statements will be inadmissible in court unless the parents are present and have been advised of the child’s constitutional rights. If the alleged delinquent act is minor, the child will likely be released to the custody of their parents. Alternatively, a detention screening may be conducted to determine whether the child should be allowed to return home or whether they will be detained pending a full detention hearing, which will be held with 48 hours after their arrest. The court may release the child with conditions or place the child in further detention.
- Delinquency petition. If the court orders further detention, a delinquency petition containing the allegations and supporting evidence will be filed by the district attorney within 72 hours. One of two things will happen at this point: formal charges will be brought against the child or the state will recommend an “informal adjustment.” The latter is always preferable as it means that the child will face rehabilitation without the burden of formal charges and the possibility of a criminal record.
- Advisement hearing. As the name implies, this proceeding is held to advise the juvenile his or her parents of their rights after a delinquency petition has been filed. At this point, the child will plead guilty or not guilty to the charges and has the opportunity to request a jury trial. No child should appear at this hearing without counsel to advise them as to how to best proceed.
- Preliminary hearing. For felony or class 1 misdemeanor charges, a preliminary hearing may be requested to determine whether probable cause exists for the charges. If no probable cause is found, the case will be dismissed. Otherwise, a trial will be scheduled.
- Trial. A judge or jury will hear testimony, evaluate evidence, and decide whether the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile committed the alleged offense. A finding of “not guilty” concludes the case with a dismissal, while a “guilty” verdict will lead to sentencing, either at that time or a later date.
- Sentencing. As noted, the juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be harsh consequences after a guilty verdict. The exact nature of those consequences will be based on the nature of the offense as well evidence and reports which will help the judge in decide the sentence. Diversion to a rehabilitation program may be recommended upon a guilty plea or verdict if the circumstances warrant it. The court may also order out of home placement, place the juvenile offender on probation, or remand the juvenile to the Department of Youth Corrections for placement in a juvenile detention facility for a designated time.
Every juvenile case is different, and not all juvenile crimes are equal. What consequences your child may face largely depends on the seriousness of the alleged offense. There are multiple categories of juvenile offenses in Colorado, and how both the crime and the child are classified will determine how they will be treated by the state’s juvenile justice system.
No matter what category and no matter what the crime, and arrest and conviction for a juvenile offense in Colorado Springs can have serious and long-term implications for a child’s future. If your child is in trouble with the law, seek the help of an experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney as soon as possible.