A Step-By-Step Guide of the Juvenile Court System

The purpose of the juvenile system differs from the adult criminal correction system in that the main goal of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate offenders not punish them.

The juvenile system has a wide option of diversion programs and specially tailored probation terms. Judges have a wide range of discretion in formulating and accepting broad and specific dispositions for the benefit of juveniles.

Services include Arraignment, which is the official reading of the charges. Many times the courts will require some additional pre-release conditions such as: stay away from a victim, no abuse of a victim, check in with probation, stay in school, have a curfew — just to name a few.

Pretrial Release

Bail Hearings– where the Commonwealth would ask for some money to secure the return of the juvenile to the court system. Often times a court can be persuaded to lower the amount of the bail if the juvenile has a significant number of connections to the community and information can be presented in a favorable light that the juvenile will return to court.

Detention Hearings-where the Commonwealth would seek to hold the juvenile because they feel that they are a danger either to themselves or to others and there are no other least restrictive means available other than holding the juvenile. A number of factors are presented to the court and a good juvenile attorney finds creative options to be able to persuade the court that holding the juvenile is not in the best interest and that there are other least restrictive means that would accomplish the same end result.

Pretrial Conference Hearings-where the attorney has the opportunity to speak with the District Attorney’s office about the juvenile and the case. The recommendation that comes from the District Attorney’s office is often the result of the information that the attorney shares with the District Attorney including some factors like: the juvenile has never been in trouble before, they are a good student, that this was an isolated incident, or that they are unlikely to repeat an offense.

Compliance Hearings-where discovery needs to be to be turned over to the defense counsel for the juvenile. This is the list of evidence that the Commonwealth intends to use against the juvenile. This information is often gathered and reviewed back in the office with the juvenile. These pieces of evidence must be broken down to an understandable level for the juvenile.

Disposition/Sentencing-where the juvenile may be monitored for a certain period of time, either on probation, which is called supervised probation, or unsupervised. They also may have some options available to them such as a pretrial diversion program or pretrial probation, which is essentially a period that the juvenile would be monitored and that the juvenile is not to get in any further trouble. Sometimes in appropriate cases, dismissal and other times trial.


Kids who have violence, fights among kids, either at concerts, out and about in social settings where there are a number of people involved. The law is that when the police cannot determine who the initial aggressor is, often times it results in multiple charges to multiple juveniles in issues of fighting or violence.

Theft– A lot of times it takes place in a mall, sometimes employee theft where they may be working or interning. It usually requires return of the goods or services and they sometimes request a Stay Away or No Trespass Order to the place where the thefts occurred.

Fighting in school– these are incidents that may result over fighting, on-going bullying, or cyber bullying. The juvenile often faces multiple consequences which may include, but not limited to detention, suspension from school and also a criminal arraignment in the juvenile justice system. There is generally a zero tolerance in school regarding fighting.

Criminal harassment– where social media and texting may become an issue where one student may be harassed on social media or either directly or indirectly through texting.

Bullying/Cyber bullying– where children try to ostracize someone into doing things so that they will have friends and is also seen on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Teen drinking at parties- this has been given a lot of attention lately. Police are cracking down on teenage drinking parties because they believe it is the start of more serious criminal activity. Also, it may adversely affect a teen’s rights to drive and underage drinking is enforced, not only against the teen, but if the alcohol is provided by an adult, the adult can be charged as well.