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How does the juvenile court process work?

Virginia teens facing criminal charges may not know what to expect when it comes to the court system. There are some basic steps that young people can expect if they are in trouble with the law.

To begin with, the court will be notified when the police have apprehended the teen for violating a law, or a parent or authority figure brings a problem with the teen to the courts.

A court intake officer will then determine what to do next. In some cases, a child will be referred to social services. Sometimes, the officer will determine that the juvenile crime case needs to be heard in juvenile court.

In more serious cases, the young person may be detained in a juvenile correctional facility. He or she may also be placed in a new living environment such as a foster home. It is important to remember that a juvenile can be charged as an adult when there is a serious offense like rape or murder.

If the matter goes to court, the teen can either admit to or deny the allegations against him. If he denies them, there will be a hearing like there would be for an adult. However, instead of a jury, a judge will decide whether he is guilty of the acts alleged. The case will be dismissed if the prosecutors have not proven their case to the court's satisfaction.

If the judge finds that the teen is guilty, a second court hearing will be held to determine the teen's consequences. Probation is common for teens that are not a danger to society. More serious offenders could be sent to a juvenile correctional facility. There are also treatment options available including community service and residential treatment to help rehabilitate young people.

Source: FindLaw, "What to Expect: Juvenile Court Chronology," accessed on Aug. 25, 2015

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