By John DiMotto
I spent my second day at Children's Court yesterday. I sat in Delinquency "Daily Intake" Court. Daily Intake Court is where juveniles charged in a delinquency petition make their initial appearance. They are "summoned" into court.
The way this works is as follows:
A juvenile is arrested for a crime. It is not a crime where he need to be detained. He is released to his parent/s or family and is advised that he will be notified in the future as to what will occur. The police reports are sent to a Juvenile Intake Worker who does an investigation and makes an initial decision as to how the case should proceed. No action, an informal disposition and/or referral to the DA for a decision on charging are usually the options. If it is referred for charging, the DA makes a decision. If a Petition alleging delinquency is issued, a court date is selected for the juvenile to make his/her first appearance in court. The summons and petition are usually served via personal service or by mail. If the juvenile does not appear, a capias (like an arrest warrant) can be issued. If the juvenile does appear, a lawyer is appointed and present in court for the "daily" - the equivalent of an Initial Appearance in a criminal case - will be the DA, juvenile, juvenile's attorney, parent/s, someone from Bureau (agency to whom the police referred the case). The "daily" is presided over by a court commissioner who determines if the Petition sets forth probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed the alleged offense and who goes over the juvenile's rights with him/her. A plea may or may not be taken. (The plea is either a denial or a stipulation to the jurisdiction of the court.) A decision on placement (where the juvenile will be during the pendency of the action) is made - like setting bail in a criminal case - and then a future court date either before the commissioner for a plea or before the judge. There are strict time limits that must be met unless the time limits are tolled for good cause.
What I found most interesting, is that there is the opportunity to "get through" to the juvenile at this proceeding on the seriousness of committing an offense and the opportunity to provide services to the juvenile and his/her family as early intervention. If some time is spent in a colloquy or dialogue with the juvenile, it may pay off if the case reaches the disposition phase.
The beginning of a juvenile delinquency case is a lot like the beginning of a criminal case in some ways and very different in other ways.
I look forward to the challenge of delinquency cases.