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Juvenile Counsel

Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings

Once a delinquency or CHINS petition has been filed in court, strict time limits begin for service of the charging document (petition) and preliminary hearings. At the initial hearing, the court relies heavily on the recommendations of police, prosecutors, and juvenile probation officers regarding whether the accused child should be taken out of the home and what conditions or restrictions are necessary to keep the child and the community safe. The child may remain at home, in the community with a relative or friend, placed in shelter care, placement in a group home, or in the juvenile jail (Sununu Youth Detention Center). It is important to make sure that, early on, the JPPO and other parties have a full picture of the child that includes all of the child’s positive attributes and accomplishments. They will already have the bad facts.

Juvenile Diversion – Case Dismissed

A juvenile delinquency case may be disposed of when the police screen the case for diversion. Police and prosecutors often have to be encouraged to consider diversion. Although there is a legal presumption that diversion is appropriate in juvenile delinquency cases, some prosecutors resist any result that ends with a dismissal of the case.

Often, police, prosecutors, and the juvenile probation/parole officer (JPPO), come together with parents, the defense attorney, and the accused child, to form a plan to resolve the matter without involving the court any further. It takes a skilled juvenile defense attorney to bring all parties together around such a resolution. If a diversion agreement can be reached, the case is ordinarily dismissed once community service, counseling, and/or other similar conditions have been met. The best juvenile defense attorneys often focus everyone on a diversion plan from the start.

Juvenile Defense – Preliminary Hearing

If diversion is not available, then a juvenile defense attorney must begin to work with the child and parents to prepare for a defense at the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing often sets the tone for the entire case. A school IEP, 501, or other evaluative information may be helpful for explaining (not excusing) the behavior that brought the child into the juvenile justice system. It is critical during the early stages that any behavior that may draw attention from law enforcement or school authorities be avoided. A “bad to worse” situation can develop quickly and eliminate many of the better outcomes. Even the best juvenile defense lawyers cannot overcome a client who continues to commit new offenses while the case is pending. Parents must remain actively involved in the hearings as the absence of a parent at these hearings does not go unnoticed.

Adjudicatory Hearing – Trial

Trial in a juvenile delinquency case is called an Adjudicatory Hearing. Preparation for trial begins with discovery. The accused child is entitled to police reports, witness statements, and other evidence that the police intend to use as evidence at trial. The accused child is also entitled to any information that the police have that may tend to demonstrate that s/he may not have committed the charged offense. This is referred to as “exculpatory evidence”.

The discovery process enables the child and parents to begin to assess the case with the juvenile defense lawyer. An investigator may be necessary to develop the evidence further and strengthen the defenses.

At the adjudicatory hearing, the police will have the burden to prove the accusations stated in the petition “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The accused child’s attorney will cross-examine the state’s witnesses and present favorable evidence and arguments to support the defense.

Attorney Sweeney is experienced in defense of juvenile delinquency charges. He works hard to gain consensus among all of the parties to bring about the best possible outcome for his clients. He also communicates with the client and parents to make sure that everyone understands the process and the options at every step of the process. Understanding of the process and options often alleviates the anxiety that always accompanies accusations.

Contact Attorney Sweeney now for a free initial consultation at (603) 589-8015. There is no time to delay in juvenile matters as strict time limits apply.

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