JUVENILE CHARGING PROCESS
If you have been given (served with) a document titled “Delinquency Petition” that accuses your son or daughter of an offense (felony, misdemeanor, or certain violations), a Preliminary Hearing (arraignment) is fast approaching. The first court date is scheduled between 1 and 7 days from the filing of the petition. The date will be listed on the summons.
There will be a statement indicating that this case has been screened for “Diversion”. Diversion is an alternative course for the case outside of the court system. A case may be referred to Diversion and dismissed altogether after a series of requirements have been met. Although Diversion sounds like a great outcome, there may be better options available depending on the child accused. Prosecutors often indicate that diversion is not appropriate because of the severity of the offense.
CHILDRENS’ JAIL AWAITING TRIAL
A child may be detained (locked up) while s/he awaits trial (adjudication) were the court makes specific findings. The prosecutor must prove to the court that detention is necessary to ensure that the child will be present for hearings, may cause him/herself harm, or the child creates a clear risk to the safety of others. If the court finds that the detention is necessary, then the child may be placed in a secure detention facility such as YDSU in Manchester while the case is pending.
The court will schedule a trial (adjudicatory hearing) within 30 days of the arraignment (21 days if the child is being held in a detention facility). This relatively short window requires quick and efficient case preparation. Many criminal defense attorneys are accustomed to having months or years to prepare a defense. Accusations against juveniles require counsel experienced, not only in criminal defense, but juvenile procedure as well.
Well before the trial, your child should have access to all of the reports and other evidence that the police intend to present against him/her. It is our practice to email the reports immediately upon their arrival and schedule discovery review meeting with the client within days to discuss the evidence and formulate a strategy for going forward. We will analyze all of the evidence and the manner in which it was obtained to determine whether some or all of the evidence can be excluded from trial. Once we have determined what evidence the police have, we then analyze whether the evidence they have is sufficient to prove the charge(s) beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the point where we begin to make decisions.
We take a two-pronged approach to every case. While we analyze and challenge every bit of evidence, we are simultaneously reaching out to the police and prosecutors in attempts to guide their view of your child and the appropriate consequences for a childish mistake.
Attorney Sweeney specializes in reducing the clients’ anxiety. With a calm and confident manner, he keeps his clients well informed and intricately involved in the process of reducing the consequences of a momentary lapse of judgement.
For a free consultation, call Attorney Sweeney right away at (603) 589-8015.