Information about Juvenile Court

The main emphasis of the juvenile courtís work is providing for the care, protection and mental and physical development of children, as opposed to punishing them. In certain cases, the court is also charged with protecting the public interest and safety, holding the offender accountable for his or her actions, restoring the victim and rehabilitating the offender. The juvenile court has exclusive jurisdiction over delinquent and unruly children; and juvenile traffic offenders. When a minor is accused of a crime, whether serious or petty, the general rule is that the minor can be tried and dealt with only in the juvenile court.

A. Intake

Upon the filing of a complaint by law enforcement, a determination is made whether the case should be scheduled for an Official Hearing before the Judge or Magistrate or scheduled for an Unofficial of Diversion Hearing. In general, first time offenders who have committed a misdemeanor offense may be eligible for an Unofficial Hearing. All felony offenses and drug-related offenses are scheduled for Official Hearings.

Other responsibilities required during the intake process include information gathering by contacting the schools for attendance, grades, and disciplinary reports, investigating the amount of restitution due to the victims, and referring the cases to the Victim Advocate when required.

B. Unofficial Hearings

An Unofficial Hearing is scheduled for the youth and his/her parent(s) before the Magistrate of the Court. The youth must be willing to admit his/her involvement in the offense. Youth are given a variety of consequences which may include curfews, community service hours, Substance Abuse Education Program, Theft Offenders Program, apology letters, and operatorís license suspensions. If the youth successfully completes his requirements, the case is closed and the youth is deemed not to have a formal juvenile record.

C. Unruly Conferences

Probation Officers will also conduct an informal conference with an unruly juvenile at the request of parents, school officials, and law enforcement officers. Probation Officers advise the youth and parents of possible consequences should the undesirable behavior continue as well as make appropriate referrals for services that may be helpful to the youth and family.

Henry County Family Court