Ita M. Neymotin, Regional Counsel

Juvenile Criminal Case Process


Delinquency cases are defined as crimes that are committed by minors (under the age of 18) in which adult sanctions are not appropriate.  However, in certain circumstances juveniles may be prosecuted by the adult system.  Juvenile cases are exclusively handled in circuit courts.
Overall, juveniles crimes are defined the same as adult crimes, however the punishments are different.


Juvenile crimes are administered by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).  If a child is accused of committing a crime, they are brought to their local DJJ facility  (JAC – Juvenile Assessment Center) where DJJ makes determination if the juvenile should released to a parent or guardian or held in detention. This recommendation is based on such things such as risk to public safety and criminal history.  If a detention is requested by DJJ, then a hearing must be held within 24 hours of the minor being taken into custody (similar to a first appearance in adult court).  The three types of detention are secure, non-secure and home detention.  Home detention is when the children are placed into the custody parents and must keep in contact with a DJJ officer.  Secure and non-secure detention is when a minor is held at a DJJ facility, for a general maximum of 21 days.

Arraignment Hearing

If the State Attorney files charges on the juvenile, there is an arraignment hearing held.  At this juncture a child with their attorney will enter a plea of either not guilty, nolo contendere or guilty.  If a child pleas not guilty, an adjudicatory hearing is scheduled.  Sometimes, the State Attorney will agree to a diversion program, which a minor is then given some form of punishment (ex: community service) in exchange for dropping the charges upon successful completion of the punishment. This may occur with minors with little or no criminal history and less severe charges.

Adjudicatory Hearing

An adjudicatory hearing is similar to a trial in adult criminal court.  The minor has the option to take a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or have the State Attorney prove that the child committed the charges they were accused of.  If they are found guilty, the child has committed a delinquent act.

Disposition Hearing

At a disposition hearing the child is sentenced by the court. They may be sentenced after an adjudicatory or on another date depending if a predisposition report (“PDR”) has been made by DJJ.  The PDR is the recommendation by DJJ of how the child should be sentenced. The Court may deviate from the sentence only if the Judge makes written findings. Minors then may be sentenced to probation or commitment to a DJJ program which helps rehabilitate the minor.


Disclaimer: None of the above constitutes legal advice. Please consult your attorney to discuss your case.