This week we will discuss what to expect if your child is alleged to have committed a delinquent act.
The first issue you may encounter is if your child is detained. A child may be placed in detention, prior to a formal adjudication of delinquency, where the detention is required “to protect the person or property of others or of the child or because the child may abscond or be removed from the jurisdiction of the court or because he has no parent, guardian or custodian or other person able to provide supervision and care for him and return him to the court when required or an order for his detention…. has been made by the court…”
In essence a child may be detained prior to a finding of delinquency when the child is a danger to himself or others, where the child may run away from home, or where there is not a suitable adult to supervise the child while the delinquency process proceeds. If a child is detained the court must hold a detention hearing within 72 hours to determine if the detention is proper and whether the detention should continue. During the detention hearing, the court will also determine if there is probable cause to believe that the child committed a delinquent act.
In some jurisdiction this hearing may be held before a “master” rather than before a juvenile court Judge. A “master” is an attorney who is assigned to hear certain matters in lieu of a Judge. A party may object to a matter being heard by a master and request a hearing before a Judge. However, that may delay the proceedings. At the conclusion of the detention hearing, the court may order that the detention continue pending an adjudication hearing or may release the child to the custody of a parent or guardian pending the adjudication hearing.
The next step in the process is an adjudication hearing. The timing for scheduling an adjudication hearing depends on whether the child is detained. If the child is detained an adjudication hearing is to be scheduled within 10 days of the filing of the petition. If the child is not detained the adjudication hearing is to be scheduled within a reasonable time. As a practical matter, most courts attempt to schedule an adjudication hearing as soon as possible regardless of whether the child is detained or not. Counsel for either side may request a continuance if they are not ready to proceed to a full adjudication hearing on the scheduled date. At the adjudication hearing the burden is on the Commonwealth to prove to the court, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the child committed a delinquent act and that the child is in need of treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation. A child may elect to forgo a full adjudication hearing and enter an admission to all or some of the allegations. Following an adjudication hearing or an admission, the court will enter an order formally finding the child to be delinquent or not delinquent.
If the child is found delinquent the next step in the process is a dispositional hearing.  The purpose of this hearing is to determine how to provide balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed and the development of competencies to enable the child to become a responsible and productive member of the community. In order to aid the court in fashioning an appropriate order the court may order a social case study to be prepared or may order the child to undergo a health, psychological, psychiatric, drug and alcohol, or any other examination it deems appropriate to aid the court.  A dispositional hearing is to be held within 20 days of the finding of delinquency if the child is detained. If the child is not detained the dispositional hearing is to be held within 60 days of the finding of delinquency.
Next week I will discuss the possible dispositions that a child may face if they have been adjudicated delinquent.
*Information contained in this blog does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. You should always obtain counsel to address the specific circumstances in your case.
 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6325
 Pa.R.J.C.P. 240
 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6332
 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6305
 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6305
 Pa.R.J.C.P. 404
 In the Interest of N.C., 171 A.3d 275 (Pa.Super. 2017)
 Pa.R.J.C.P. 407
 Pa.R.J.C.P. 512
 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6352
 Pa.R.J.C.P. 513
 Pa.R.J.C.P. 510