OVERVIEW OF THE JUVENILE CASE
This section is to give people a quick overview of how the juvenile court system works. The next section of this web page includes frequently asked questions about how the prosecuting attorney's office handles juvenile cases.
Juvenile Court v. Adult Court
The juvenile court system is, in many respects, quite similar to courts systems that process adults. However, there are some very important differences. Some of them are:
Both the juvenile and his/her parents or legal guardians come under the jurisdiction of the court.
Parents or legal guardians can be held responsible, along with the juvenile, if the juvenile fails to meet his/her obligations (financial or otherwise) to the court.
The Juvenile Court Judge makes the final determination as to the guilt or innocence of a juvenile. Juveniles are not entitled to jury trials.
There are no fines in juvenile court (except for curfew violations) but there are court and/or probation fees.
All juvenile cases begin with the prosecuting attorney filing a juvenile petition with the court. The juvenile petition is similar to an adult criminal complaint. The juvenile petition alleges what the juvenile has done, or not done, which causes him to come under the purview of the juvenile justice system.
The juvenile's first appearance in court is at a proceeding called an Admit/Deny Hearing. During the hearing, the juvenile and his/her parents or guardians is informed of the charge or charges filed against the juvenile, the maximum possible penalties that the court could impose if the juvenile pleads or is found guilty, and the juvenile's constitutional rights. The court will also ask the juvenile if they intend to hire their own attorney of if they need to have an attorney appointed to represent them. In general, the court considers nearly every juvenile indigent and, if requested, will appoint an attorney to represent the juvenile. In cases where the juvenile has been arrested and held in a detention facility, the court also discusses whether the juvenile should be released or remains in custody. If the juvenile pleads guilty at the Admit/Deny Hearing, the court will order that the Bingham County Juvenile Probation Department prepare a social summary, called a Pre-Disposition Report, and schedules a sentencing hearing to be held on a later date. If the juvenile pleads not guilty, the court will set the next hearing for the juvenile and his/her parents or legal guardians to attend. That hearing is called a pretrial conference.
The purpose of a pretrial conference is to bring the parties together to determine if they can reach a satisfactory resolution to the case. This is commonly known as plea-bargaining. Such conferences, with a few exceptions, are held on Wednesday mornings. If the prosecution, the juvenile and his/her parents or legal guardians reach an agreement, that agreement will presented to the judge and a sentencing hearing will be scheduled. If the parties cannot reach a resolution, the court will either set a date for another pretrial conference or schedule the matter for an Evidentiary Hearing (also known as a trial).
Evidentiary Hearings are trials decided by the juvenile court judge. Most Evidentiary Hearings last a half an hour to a half-day and are usually held on Wednesdays.
A sentencing hearing is the last regular hearing held before the court. Victims have a right to address the court at these hearings. The prosecution argues to the court what an appropriate sentence ought to be, as does the juvenile. The prosecution and the juvenile can call witnesses and introduce evidence to support their position about the appropriate sentence. The court will address the issue of detention time. When applicable, the court will also discuss the suspension of the juvenile's driver's license and the restitution the juvenile must pay to the victim.
In certain cases the court can place the juvenile on probation. Probation is supervised by the court or, more commonly, by the Bingham County Juvenile Probation Department. Probation means that the court suspends the requirement that the juvenile serve the sentence that was given, but is required to do certain things in exchange for suspending the sentence. These things can include counseling, community service, random urinalysis, school attendance and passing grades, curfews, attending classes offered by the Juvenile Probation Department, and restrictions on associating with certain people or going to certain businesses or locations.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What If A Juvenile Wants To Reschedule A Hearing?
The prosecutor's office does not have the power to reschedule a hearing. Only the court can grant a continuance of a hearing. The court cannot do this until the juvenile’s parents or legal guardians make a formal request as discussed below.
A juvenile who wants or needs to reschedule a hearing needs to make a formal request to the court and provide a copy of that request to the prosecutor's office. This request needs to be made in writing and be in the format required by the Idaho Court Rules. To read the rule setting out the format requirements, click on this link to Idaho Criminal Rule 12. The prosecutor's office does not prepare or file a request with the court on behalf of the juvenile. This is solely the responsibility of the juvenile's parents or legal guardians.
If a juvenile contacts the prosecutor's office about continuing a hearing, the prosecutor's office will listen to the reason the continuance is being requested and give an opinion on whether the prosecution will object to or agree to continue the hearing to another day. If the prosecutor states that the prosecution does not object to rescheduling the hearing, that statement does not guarantee the hearing will be continued and is not a substitute for making a written request to the court and receiving an order from the court continuing the hearing.
People often contact the clerk's office to request to reschedule a hearing. The common practice of the court clerks in this situation is to refer the people to the prosecutor's office. As indicated above, the prosecution does not have the authority to continue a hearing. All the office staff can provide is some direction to the juvenile as to whether the prosecution will agree to or object to the request to reschedule the hearing.
What If A Juvenile Wants To Discuss The Case Before Their First Court Appearance Or The Pretrial Conference?
Many parents or legal guardians of juveniles will contact the prosecutor's office immediately after they receive a notice of an Admit/Deny Hearing or after their first court appearance to try to discuss the case with the prosecutor. This is normally done in an attempt to avoid having to appearing in court.
If the parents or legal guardians wish to speak the prosecuting attorney about a case before the Admit/Deny Hearing, then they should make an appointment to meet with the prosecutor. Generally, the prosecutor does discuss cases with a juvenile or his/her family after the Admit/Deny Hearing because the juvenile is usually appointed an attorney and such discussions would be an ethical violation (see below for more details). However, in those rare instances when a juvenile is not represented by an attorney, then a parent or legal guardian must once again make an appointment to meet with the prosecutor.
What If A Juvenile Wants To Appear At Court Before The Admit/Deny Hearing?
Juveniles should contact the clerk's office about their juvenile petition before coming to the courthouse to either admit or deny the petition. Normally, the court does not allow juveniles to come to court to enter a plea before their scheduled Admit/Deny Hearing. If extraordinary circumstances exist, then the clerk will probably check to see if the judge will allow the juvenile to appear before his/her regularly scheduled court date.
Why Won't The Prosecutor Talk Directly With A Juvenile, Or His/Her Parents Or Legal Guardians, Who Is Represented By An Attorney?
The Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit an attorney from discussing a case with a party who is represented by an attorney. It is an ethical violation which can result in sanctions, even revocation of the prosecutor's license to practice law, if the prosecutor discusses the case with a juvenile who he knows to be represented by an attorney. The juvenile's attorney can give consent for the prosecution to talk to the juvenile without the defense attorney present. This occurs in very rare circumstances. The prosecuting attorney will usually decline to talk to the juvenile in such a situation unless the defense attorney's consent is in writing.
What If A Juvenile Cannot Get Their Attorney To Discuss The Case With Them?
The parents of legal guardians of a juvenile will occasionally call the prosecutor's office to discuss the case because they are not satisfied with the amount or quality of the conversations they are having with their attorney. As indicated in the previous section, the prosecutor cannot discuss the case with a juvenile who is represented by counsel.
It is suggested that if the issue is one of the lawyer not returning phone calls, that the juvenile’s adult family member write a letter to the attorney about what it is the juvenile needs to know. This provides proof of the contact with the defense attorney and may allow the attorney to ask a member of their staff to address the concern because the attorney's schedule prevents them from responding in a timely fashion.
If writing a letter to the attorney does not work, it is suggested that the juvenile’s parents or legal guardian write a letter to the judge explaining the communication problem with the attorney. They should not discuss specific items in the case, strategy items, or make any incriminating remarks. Any statements the juvenile, or his parents or legal guardians, make to the judge must be disclosed to the prosecution and can by used against the juvenile during any part of the case.
As a client, a juvenile can also report the lawyer to the Idaho State Bar if they believe one of the rules of professional conduct has been violated. This will trigger an investigation into the incident by the Idaho State Bar's ethics attorney. It is suggested that a juvenile be assured that the attorney does not have a reasonable and valid explanation for the lack of communication before making such a referral.
Will A Conviction Affect A Juvenile's Driver's License?
The juvenile court can affect the driving privileges of a juvenile – regardless of what criminal act he/she was found of to which he/she has pled guilty. Idaho's criminal statutes can be researched by clicking on the following link to Idaho Statutes.
What If I Am A Victim Of The Offense?
If you are a victim of an offense you have certain rights. To learn more about victim-related issues, please review the victim information provided on this web site by clicking this link to our Victim Services web page.
The county prosecuting attorney has exclusive jurisdiction to prosecute juveniles under the provisions of the Juvenile Corrections Act. Some offenses fall under the Juvenile Corrections Act, while others do not. The most common offenses not covered by the Act are traffic, alcohol and tobacco, and fish and game violations. These are proceeded upon by way of citation. The specific statute addressing whether offenses fall within or outside the Juvenile Corrections Act is Idaho Code 20-505.
Juveniles can be waived out the juvenile system and prosecuted within the adult system for certain violent offenses or upon an order of the presiding magistrate declaring that the juvenile cannot be appropriately rehabilitated in the juvenile justice system. The provisions for waiver are found in Idaho Code 20-508 and 20-509.
Juveniles are charged with offenses based on the same statutes applicable to adults. If the offense falls under theJuvenile Corrections Act, they are not considered crimes but are designated as "acts which would be crimes if committed by an adult." Offenses which do not fall under the Act are considered criminal offenses.
Proceedings falling under the Juvenile Corrections Act are processed under governed by the procedures set out in the act.
Proceedings that fall outside the act are treated under the usual criminal procedures discussed other places on this web site.
Court rules governing juvenile proceedings are adopted by the Idaho Supreme Court and are located in Idaho Juvenile Rules.
The prosecutor's office works in conjunction with the following agencies in the discharge of their responsibilities: