In New York, when an individual is between 7 and 16 years old, and commits an act that would be considered a crime if perpetrated by an adult, then juvenile delinquency law comes into play. The young individual must be found to require supervision, treatment, or detention. Once that is determined, the individual is termed a “juvenile delinquent” (JD), and family court has jurisdiction to hear the case.
There are exceptions, such as when a child is 13, 14, or 15 and commits a serious or violent offense. These individuals can be prosecuted as adults, and the case is often heard in Supreme Court or criminal court in certain jurisdictions, although family court may still preside over it. If a child is found guilty for one of these more serious offenses, then the individual is called a “juvenile offender” (JO) and will receive harsher penalties than a JD.
First, the prosecuting agency will differ depending on the type of defendant the child is categorized as. In a JD case, a County Attorney or City Attorney, depending on the jurisdiction, will present the case in family court. When deemed a JO, or in the case of a specific serious crime committed by a JD, the District Attorney’s Office will prosecute. In family court cases, the legal terms differ from a typical criminal court proceeding. The prosecutor is called a presentment agency, who files a petition instead of an information, as it would be called in criminal court. The victim in the case would be the complainant, and the defendant would be termed the respondent.
Furthermore, in a JD case, the trial is actually called a fact-finding hearing. There is no jury as in a criminal trial, but otherwise, is similar. Given that there is no jury, the judge will decide all issues, including whether to remand the child into custody, or release him or her. There is no bail in JD cases in family court.
It is important to note that although the terms used and court may be different from a criminal court, JD cases are legal proceedings that affect many people. Constitutional and legal rights are still intact for the children, and so there are several types of hearings that can be requested. One is a hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to remand the individual. Another hearing is to review evidence which the presentment agency wishes to use in the fact-finding hearing. In the end, if after the hearing, the individual is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the child can be sentenced to serve time in a detention facility or any other combination of supervision recommended at the dispositional hearing.
If you or someone you love is involved in a juvenile delinquency case, contact an experienced criminal law attorney who can guide you through the process and make sure that your rights are protected. Contact Larry McCord & Associates, LLC at (631) 643-3084 for a consultation today.