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What Is a Juvenile Detention Hearing?



The District Attorney can file the petition filed against a child in juvenile proceedings once they have received an affidavit from probation detailing the incident and recommending that a petition be filed. The petition in effect asks the court for the juvenile to be declared a ward of the state for the purposes of the proceeding until a final outcome of the case can be decided. After a petition is filed the prosecutor can request that an arrest warrant be issued. Serious cases of violent crime like robbery, sexual assault, or other sex crime can be filed directly in adult criminal court at the discretion of the district attorney.


Once a petition is filed a detention hearing will be set for no later than 30 days of the petitions filing if the child is out of custody. Prior to the detention proceeding, the probation department must disclose a large quantity of discovery to the attorney or guardian in the case. This discovery includes probation reports, records of statements and admissions made by the child or parent; reports of experts; photographs of all physical evidence, the names and address of any witnesses, and all other relevant materials that could be used in the juvenile case.

The Proceeding

While most proceedings are closed to the public certain offenses when alleged requires the court to open the hearing to the same extent as if it were an adult criminal trial. Violent offenses, use of a firearm, sexual offenses, and even some crimes relating to controlled substances or marijuana can fall into this category. Your criminal defense lawyer should seek to have all proceedings closed to the public to preserve your child’s record from improper inspection and scrutiny.

Who Can Attend

Other than the accused child the court will permit the following persons to attend any juvenile delinquency hearing: parent or guardian, counsel for the child, probation officer, prosecuting attorney, two family members or support individuals for a prosecutions witness, the alleged crime victim and some of their family members along with necessary court personnel and a translator. The juvenile crimes lawyer can also argue to have other members of the child’s family present.

Right to Counsel

The child has an absolute right to counsel at all stages of juvenile proceedings. This includes any type of police interrogation and pretrial conferences. If the parents are unable to retain an attorney the court will assign counsel at the parents' expense.

Admission or Plea of No-Contest

A child can admit the allegations in the petition or otherwise plead no-contest at the detention hearing. The judge must be satisfied that the child understands the nature of the offense charged and the consequences of admitting to the allegations. If the child is under the age of 14 the Judge must make an additional inquiry and have the assurance that the child knew of the wrongfulness of the act. A criminal conviction of a child under 14 requires that the child clearly knew the act they had committed was wrong. Finally, the court must put on the record that it is satisfied with the plea and that the child understands they are waiving several constitutional rights by admitting to the allegations.

Right to Confront Accuser

The detention hearing is far more informal than a typical criminal hearing. The child has no right to present an affirmative defense against detention however the attorney can attack and cross-examine those who prepared reports for the court to consider such as probation or other investigators. The attorney can present evidence that shows that the child is not a danger to the community and other mitigating evidence that detention is unnecessary. A skilled attorney can work through the available evidence and reports to convince the courts that the detention of the child is not necessary. Even cases involving serious offenses the Juvenile Court system is a tool that can help safeguard your child from improper attacks by probation, child protective services, and the prosecutors who file these petitions. The detention hearing is a crucial first step in your child’s case where the juvenile crime attorney can present the case in the best light to the court and ensure that future hearings give the best results possible.

What does the judge consider

An experienced juvenile attorney can prepare a significant amount of evidence to show the judge the detention in a given case is unnecessary and will likely harm the child’s welfare. The nature of the offense, past criminal history, escape or flight from other detention facilities and the likelihood of harm to the child or the public are all factors weighed by the judge in a detention hearing.

What can the judge order?

The judge can simply order no detention and permit the child to return home with their parent or guardian. If some services are needed to permit the child to return home the court must order these services to be provided.

A release can be ordered for home supervision of the child for up to 15 days. This order can include a requirement of electronic monitoring and a restraining order.

Detention to a juvenile delinquency facility will be ordered only if staying in the home would go against the child’s welfare and there are other specific grounds relating to the child’s past offenses or actions that require detention. If the court feels detention is necessary for the protection of the minor they will often have probation work with DSS to ensure the child is placed in a suitable location during the proceedings.

Home Supervision instead of detention

If the court does feel that the child should be confined but not necessarily detained in the juvenile system they may grant in-home supervision to the parent or guardian. This can be granted for 15 days at a time and will require a written guarantee from the parent and the child that they will come to all hearings at the court or juvenile hall as required by the court or probation. A child who is granted home supervision will be subject to multiple conditions that they must comply with:

  • Looking for a job
  • Obey curfew
  • Abstain from drug and alcohol use
  • Agree to drug tests
  • Attend counseling
  • Behave in school

In addition, any other conditions that the court feels is required for the child to continue with their in-home confinement. Of course, any granting of in-home confinement will require that the child stay away from and make no contact with the alleged victim and also forbids contact with anyone alleged to be connected with or a companion in the offense.

Non-Secure facilities

If a child is not considered a risk to themselves, others, or the personal property of others they can be detained in non-secure facilities. The judge will look at the nature of the offense, prior criminal record, and the child’s age to determine if a non-secure facility is appropriate.