The Juvenile Court System

You may have several court hearings before your case is resolved. It is extremely important that you appear for all of your hearings. If you do not appear, a warrant for your arrest may be issued. In addition, a parent or guardian must accompany you to your hearings. If you have an emergency and must be late for or miss a hearing, call your attorney right away. The telephone number for the Public Defender’s Office is 520-866-7199.

Dress nicely when you come to court. If you wear shorts or a sleeveless shirt, the Judge will send you home and you will have to come back again on another day. Do not wear anything that advertises drugs, alcohol, or nudity. Do not wear gang symbols or colors. Do not wear a hat in the courtroom. Call the Judge “Sir,” “Ma’am,” or “Your Honor.”

Advisory Hearings
If you are arrested and taken to the Youth Justice Center, your first hearing will be a detained advisory. The detained advisory will be held at the Pinal County Superior Court or the Youth Justice Center. The judge will inform you of the charges against you, enter a denial on your behalf, set a date for a pretrial conference, and appoint an attorney if you cannot afford to hire one. Usually, the judge appoints the Public Defender’s Office, and your case will be assigned to an attorney who works in that office. If the Public Defender’s Office has a conflict of interest, a private attorney will be appointed at no cost to you.

Release Conditions
Your release conditions will be set at the detained advisory. Your attorney may file a motion asking the court to change your release conditions later in your case.

There are 4 types of pre-adjudication release:

  • Release to your parents or guardian: You may be released to a parent or guardian on your own promise to appear for your next hearing. You will likely be given a curfew as a condition of your release.
  • Release on house arrest: The judge will allow you to go home, but you must stay in your house at all times unless you are attending school or some other activity that has been approved by the Juvenile Probation Department. If you violate house arrest, you will very likely be arrested and sent back to the Youth Justice Center until your next hearing.
  • Held in Detention “With Discretion”: If the judge orders you held with discretion, that means that you can be released before your next hearing if your Probation Officer or Juvenile Court Services decides you can be released.
  • Held “Without Discretion”: If you are ordered to be held without discretion, you cannot be released before you appear in front of the judge again, either at your next hearing, or at a Detention Review which can be requested by your attorney.

Advisory Hearings for Juveniles Not in Custody
If you have been charged with a delinquent or incorrigible act, the County Attorney’s Office will commence legal proceedings against you by filing a petition. You will receive a summons in the mail directing you to appear at an advisory hearing at a certain date and time. You must appear for this hearing or a warrant may be issued for your arrest. If you have an emergency and must be late for or miss your advisory hearing, call Juvenile Court Services at 520-866-7065.

Guardian ad Litem
A Guardian ad Litem is a lawyer appointed by the Court to make recommendations concerning the best interests of the juvenile. The Court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem if the judge is concerned that there might be an unusual level of tension between the juvenile and other family members, or if he or she thinks that the juvenile might not be legally competent. The Guardian ad Litem will meet with the juvenile and his or her parents or guardian to discuss any special concerns. The Guardian ad Litem will make recommendations to the court at all hearings.

Pre-Trial Conference
This hearing is usually about four weeks after the advisory hearing. Before the Pre-Trial it is important that you meet with the attorney assigned to your case. He or she will explain in detail the charges against you and discuss the best course of action. Often, the County Attorney’s Office will offer a plea agreement, which is an agreement between you and the prosecutor. Usually, a plea agreement will dismiss a more serious charge if you plead guilty to a less serious charge, or it will make you eligible for probation even though you would be sent to the Department of Juvenile Corrections if you lost at trial. It is important to review the entire plea agreement with your attorney before you accept it. The decision to enter into a plea agreement is entirely up to you. If you decide not to accept a plea agreement, your attorney will set your case for a Firm Adjudication, which is what a trial is called in the juvenile court system.

Firm Adjudication Hearing
Firm Adjudications never involve juries. Instead, the prosecutor will have to convince the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the delinquent/incorrigible act or acts that you are charged with. The prosecutor will present evidence and witnesses to testify against you. Your attorney will have an opportunity to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and to present evidence and witnesses on your behalf. You will decide whether or not to testify at your adjudication hearing. You should discuss this with your attorney before making a decision.

Pre-Disposition Interview
If you enter into a plea agreement, the judge will order a pre-disposition interview. A juvenile probation officer will read the police reports, look at your delinquency history, interview you, talk to the victim if there is one, and write a report about you for the judge to use at disposition. The judge will rely on that report when he or she decides your consequences, so your interview is very important. Do not miss your interview. Be there on time. If you are running late, call the Juvenile Probation Department and let someone know. Dress nicely. Be respectful. If your attorney has given you any advice about the interview, be sure to follow it.

Disposition
“Disposition” is the term used in the juvenile court system for “sentencing.” If you enter into a plea agreement, you will have a disposition hearing approximately four weeks later. Your attorney and the prosecutor may make brief statements to the Court. You will also have the opportunity to speak if you want to. Your parents will be allowed to speak, too. If you have letters of support from teachers or other adults who know you well, your attorney will submit them to the Court.

Diversion
The County Attorney may decide to divert prosecution of a juvenile accused of committing a delinquent or incorrigible act. This means that instead of having additional hearings and receiving consequences from a judge, the Juvenile Probation Department will set up a community-based alternative program. When diversion is offered, a juvenile probation officer will conduct a personal interview with the juvenile. At least one of the juvenile’s parents or guardians must attend this interview. If the juvenile admits responsibility for the delinquent or incorrigible act, the juvenile probation officer will require him or her to perform any combination of tasks, including but not limited to community service, participation in counseling or an educational program, payment of restitution to the victim, and/or payment a monetary assessment. If the juvenile successfully completes diversion, the county attorney will not file a petition in court. Successful completion of diversion means that there will not be a conviction on the juvenile’s record.

Petition to Revoke Probation
If you are on probation and your probation officer believes that you have violated the terms of your probation, he or she will file a Petition to Revoke Probation. A warrant for your arrest will almost certainly be issued. Once you are arrested on the Petition, you will have a detained advisory. At that hearing, you will be told what violations of probation your probation officer is claiming you committed. The Court will enter a denial on your behalf, re-affirm the appointment of your attorney, and set a violation hearing. The Court will also set release conditions. Most likely you will be held without discretion. If you are found to have violated probation, either by entering an admission or after a hearing, your case will be set for a disposition hearing. At that hearing, you could be placed back on probation, you could be placed on Juvenile Intensive Probation (JIPS), or you could be committed to the Department of Juvenile Corrections.

Appeal
If you are found delinquent at a firm adjudication hearing, you can file an appeal. A Notice of Appeal must be filed in the Pinal County Superior Court within 20 days of your Disposition. If you want to file an appeal or have questions about filing an appeal, you should talk to your attorney.