If you were victimized by someone under the age of 18, the offender is considered a juvenile, and your case will be handled differently than if the offender is an adult. The primary difference is an emphasis on rehabilitating juveniles rather than punishment. Juveniles are not convicted of a crime, but are found to be delinquent, and their records are not made available to the public.

Not All Juvenile Offenders Are Sent To Court

If the offender is a juvenile, the police typically file a “complaint” about the juvenile suspect with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). New cases are reviewed by an intake officer at the local DJJ office. The intake officer will contact any victim involved in the complaint.

The intake officer will decide whether to close the case, place the juvenile on informal supervision, send the youth to a treatment program, or forward the case to the State’s Attorney’s office for a formal hearing in Juvenile Court. The intake officer has 25 days to take action on the case. The informal adjustment process may not exceed 90 days. You will receive a letter advising you of the intake officer’s decision and your right to appeal if the case is closed. You must file an appeal within 30 days.

Juvenile Delinquency

A juvenile is considered delinquent if he commits an act which would be a crime if committed by an adult. More serious complaints go directly to the State’s Attorney’s office to be handled in Juvenile Court. This depends on the severity of the delinquent act, the youth’s age, and prior delinquent record.

For juvenile complaints involving a serious delinquent act, the State’s Attorney may request that the juvenile be tried in Adult Court. A Circuit Court judge rules on this request at a “Waiver Hearing” and determines if the case will be heard in Circuit or Juvenile Court.


Criminal Court Juvenile Court
Defendant Respondent
Trial Adjudicatory hearing
The defendant pleads guilty or not guilty The juvenile may deny or admit involvement in  the offense
Sentencing Disposition
A judge presides over the trial A judge or master may preside over the hearing. A master is a family law expert who conducts juvenile hearings. Masters make recommendations to a judge as to how the case should be decided. The judge may accept or reject those recommendations.


What Happens In Juvenile Court

The State’s Attorney must take action within 30 days of receiving a juvenile complaint. There are several types of hearings that may occur.

Initial Appearance/Hearing: Ordinarily, the Initial Appearance will be the juvenile’s first appearance in court after a Delinquency Petition has been filed by the State’s Attorney. If the juvenile is in custody, a Detention Hearing may have been held, or may be conducted at the same time as the Initial Appearance. At the Initial Appearance, the Juvenile Court will appoint counsel (Public Defender) for the child if necessary, and will advise the child and his parents or guardians of the charges, and of his/her rights in a juvenile proceeding.

Detention Hearing:  If the juvenile is considered dangerous or his well-being is threatened, a hearing will be held by a Juvenile Court Judge to decide whether or not to detain the juvenile in a secure facility for up to 30 days, or to release him to the custody of a parent or guardian.

Adjudicatory Hearing: This hearing is held in Juvenile Court to determine if the juvenile who committed the offense is “delinquent.” It must take place within 60 days. As in an adult case, the juvenile is entitled to an attorney, and the attorney may contact you before the hearing to try to discover information to help the juvenile offender. However, you are not required to talk to the juvenile’s attorney or his representative. If you decide to talk to the juvenile’s attorney but would feel more comfortable having the prosecutor handling the case present, please contact our office first and we will make arrangements for a mutually convenient time.

Disposition Hearing: If the offender is found to be delinquent, the judge will hold a separate disposition hearing to determine appropriate actions against the juvenile. The juvenile may be placed on probation, placed in the custody of a juvenile justice facility, or ordered to participate in appropriate counseling and/or treatment programs.

Restitution Hearing: If the juvenile is found to be delinquent, a restitution hearing may be held. The State must prove that the victim’s personal property was stolen, damaged or destroyed, and/or that there were medical or funeral expenses incurred by the victim as a direct result of the delinquent act.

If the court determines that restitution should be paid, the judge will enter a judgment  of restitution against the juvenile. The court may also hold the juvenile’s parents liable for the expenses in an amount not to exceed $10,000. Restitution may be a condition of the juvenile’s probation.

How Do I Find Out About My Case?

The victim, and in most cases, the general public have a right to attend any of the hearings mentioned above, if the juvenile is alleged to have committed a delinquent act which would have been a felony if committed by an adult. In other cases, the court may exclude the general public and admit only those persons having direct interest in the proceedings.