In Ohio, the legal process for minors accused of committing a crime is different from that of an adult. Most cases involving young offenders are handled in juvenile court, which focuses on rehabilitating minor offenders rather than punishing them. The process begins when the minor is taken into custody. The child will go through several hearings. A judge may determine whether they are responsible for committing the delinquency offense and what sanctions to impose. Any minor accused of a crime should receive counsel from an experienced lawyer versed in juvenile law. They can help seek a favorable result.
A Minor’s Case May Be Handled in Juvenile Court
If a minor is alleged to have committed a wrongful act in Ohio, their case may be handled through a different system than an adult accused of a crime. Persons under 18 years of age go through the juvenile court system. Here, unlawful conduct is considered a delinquency offense rather than a criminal act.
Although a juvenile might have engaged in wrongful behavior similar to that of an adult, young people do not face the same penalties as adults. The juvenile court system is concentrated not on doling out criminal punishments but rather on imposing sanctions focused on rehabilitating the child. Programming aims to help minors get their lives back on track.
The Juvenile Court Process
The juvenile court process begins when a minor allegedly commits a delinquency offense. It starts with an investigating law enforcement officer examining the case details and deciding the appropriate charges. The officer may discuss their decision with the county prosecutor in many situations.
The Arrest and Detention
In a delinquency case, the responding officer may arrest the child and transport them to a Juvenile Detention Center. Upon admission to the center, the minor will be searched, questioned, and allowed to call their parents and/or a lawyer.
The child will be scheduled for a detention hearing within 72 hours of being admitted to the center. A judge will decide whether the child should be released while their case is pending.
Not every juvenile delinquency situation will result in an arrest and detention.
Whether the child is taken into custody will depend on several factors, including the following:
- The gravity of the offense
- The child’s behavior when interacting with law enforcement personnel
- The parents’ or guardian’s ability and willingness to care for the child while the case is pending
Whether or not the child has been arrested, they will receive a summons. The document states the date and location of the child’s next hearing and instructions for parents or guardians to be present at the proceeding.
The child must appear in court when required. If they do not show up, the court can issue a warrant for their arrest.
One of the first hearings the child must attend is an arraignment. At the proceeding, the court will review the charges against the child and ensure that the child understands them.
Additionally, they will explain that the child has certain rights. These include the right to remain silent, to be represented by an attorney, and to cross-examine witnesses and present their own evidence.
Note that minors don’t have certain rights afforded to adults. For instance, a jury does not hear a juvenile case, and minors cannot be released on bail or bond.
At the arraignment, the child may be asked to make a plea. Pleas in juvenile cases include denying or admitting responsibility for the alleged delinquent offense.
If the child denies committing the offense, their case will proceed through several other hearings.
These include the following:
- Pretrial hearing: The defense attorney, prosecutor, and judge discuss the case details.
- Preliminary hearing: Legal issues not concerning the child’s responsibility for the delinquency offense are worked out.
- Adjudicatory hearing: The judge decides whether the child is responsible for the offense and should be adjudicated delinquent.
The Disposition Hearing
In cases where the minor admits responsibility or is found responsible for the offense, they will be scheduled for a disposition hearing. This is where the judge decides the type of sanctions to impose.
Possible dispositions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Commitment to the Ohio Department of Youth Services
- Juvenile detention
- House arrest
- Community service
- Counseling or therapy
The Importance of Hiring a Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer for any legal issue is crucial. Still, getting the right attorney is even more critical in juvenile delinquency cases. Juvenile court is distinct from adult court, with different processes and an emphasis on rehabilitation instead of punishment. A good lawyer will know the law and the specifics of juvenile cases. They can help protect your child’s rights and seek a favorable outcome.
If you need help navigating the Dayton juvenile justice system, schedule a consultation with L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC by contacting us at (937) 685-7006.