What Happens In Juvenile Court

At the time of the hearing, the following personnel may be present: the Juvenile Court Judge, the Juvenile Court Master, the Court Clerk, the Court Stenographer, a Sheriff's Deputy, the Assistant District Attorney, Juvenile Probation Officer, the Defense Attorney, the Juvenile Offenders, the Parents or Guardians of the Juvenile Offender, Police Officers and the Victims and Witnesses of the crime.

There are three common hearings held in the Juvenile Justice System. A general description of each of the three hearings follows.

Detention Hearing: In a small percentage of cases, immediately following the commission of a crime, the juvenile is detained at the Westmoreland County Youth Services Center. Detention hearings are usually held within seventy-two (72) hours of the commitment. At the detention hearing, the Juvenile Court Judge will decide whether the juvenile should remain in detention or be released to his parent until an adjudication hearing is scheduled. Unlike the adult system, bond is not available to a juvenile offender.

Adjudication Hearing: An adjudication hearing is to determine quilt or innocence. It is scheduled within ten days of the detention hearing, if the offender is in detention. The juvenile offender may or may not admit to the charges. If he or she does not admit guilt, the District Attorney and the Defense Attorney may subpoena victims and witnesses to appear at the hearing to testify. If the charges cannot be proven, the juvenile is released from the jurisdiction of Juvenile Court. If the charges are proven, then an adjudication of the delinquency is made and the juvenile is scheduled for a disposition hearing, usually at a later date.

Disposition Hearing: Disposition is similar to an adult sentencing hearing. Prior to the disposition hearing, a thorough background investigation is conducted by the Juvenile Probation Department. Victims will be contacted by a probation officer to verify any losses and to discuss their feelings and opinions about the case. The Probation officer will also contact schools, police, community agencies or their organizations.

The Juvenile Court Master or Judge may:
  • Place the juvenile on probation or electronic monitoring. If placed on probation, the juvenile will be under the close supervision of a juvenile probation officer.
  • With the consent of the District Attorney, place the juvenile under a consent decree.
  • Commit the juvenile to an institution, group home or foster case placement.