If you are a juvenile (under 18 years of age) and your case remains in Juvenile court, you will be held at a facility for juveniles rather than a jail. Your first court hearing is called a detention hearing, not a first appearance. At that hearing, the judge will decide whether you should be released from custody and may appoint a lawyer from the Office of the Public Defender to represent you. If the Public Defender is appointed and you are released from custody, you must contact the Public Defender’s office immediately for an appointment to see your lawyer.
Even if you are under age 18, under certain circumstances, you may be tried as an adult. Your prior record and the seriousness of the charge may be considered. You also may request to be tried as an adult if you so desire. Your lawyer will explain these matters to you based on the facts of your case. If you are to be tried as a juvenile you may be released from custody through a program called non-secure detention. Your lawyer may ask for you to be interviewed for non-secure detention, and will ask the judge for your release.
Only the judge can place you in the program. Non-secure detention allows you to live at home while waiting for trial. A counselor will contact you periodically. You may be returned to custody if you do not follow rules set by your counselor. After the detention hearing there will be an arraignment where you will be asked to enter your plea. The various pleas available to you and the procedures to be followed in handling your case are similar to those for adults except, you do not have a right to a jury trial (refer to earlier sections and ask your lawyer for details). Your case will be heard and decided by a judge assigned to the Juvenile court. Your trial will be called an adjudicatory hearing. If you have been found not guilty by the judge or if your case has been dismissed, you will be released and there will be no further proceedings in your case. If you are found guilty at the adjudicatory hearing, you will have a dispositional hearing where the judge decides what will happen to you.
In order to determine the disposition of your case, the Judge will look at the facts and your personal background including your prior record, if any. Your counselor will provide a report on your background. The judge can commit you to Youth Services, place you on probation or order you to participate in a community control program. Do not compare the disposition of your case with other cases, because each case is different. If the judge orders you to participate in community control, you may be required to work for the victim, repay the victim for any damages, or provide some kind of service working for your community. If you do not complete your responsibilities under community control, you may be brought back to court. Your lawyer will represent you at this hearing and must explain any difficulties you are having complying with community control. You may be committed to Youth Services if the judge finds that you have not done what he told you to do.
A commitment to Youth Services usually means you’ll be taken out of your home. It also subjects you to the possibility of being sent to a state training school.