Juvenile Criminal Case Process

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Apache County Attorney’s Office
Michael B. Whiting, County Attorney
“one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Juvenile Criminal Case Process

The Crime
When you are the victim or witness of a crime, you should immediately call 9-1-1 or the law enforcement agency (Police, Sheriff or Department of Public Safety) which has the responsibility for the area where the crime occurred. The best thing you can do is call the law enforcement agency immediately; the longer you wait, the harder it will be to catch the criminal

Initial Investigation
In most cases an initial investigation of a crime is conducted by a patrol officer who travels to the crime scene or the location of the victim, shortly after the crime is reported. Naturally, the officer will assist those who need medical attention. The patrol officer will interview the victim(s) and any witness(es) and will begin an initial report listing the circumstances of the crime. In addition, any officer may take photographs and dust for fingerprints during an inspection
of the scene.

Identification technicians may also respond to the scene if there is a need to take special photographs of the crime scene or the victim, to record possible fingerprints, to collect physical evidence or to draw a composite of any suspects. The patrol officer then completes an incident report which is channeled to detectives who investigate that particular type of crime.

Follow-up Investigation
The patrol officer’s report is then reviewed by a sergeant or another ranking officer in the Detective Division. He/she may assign the case to a detective for follow-up investigation. Detectives may contact witnesses for a formal statement, may obtain further physical evidence, and may request further descriptions of suspects or stolen property. During the course of an investigation, photographic line-ups may be shown to victims and witnesses. These photographic lineups may or may not contain the photograph of the juvenile offender.Formal Charging Procedure
When the investigating officer believes that a suspect has been identified and that there is sufficient evidence, a Delinquency Complaint/Referral, alleging the commission of a delinquent act, is submitted to the Juvenile Probation Department. A Juvenile Probation Officer will submit a Delinquency Complaint/Referral to the Apache County Attorney’s Office with a request that a Petition be filed with the Juvenile Court if the delinquent act is:a felony; the third time the juvenile is accused of committing a misdemeanor; or a first or second time misdemeanor and the Juvenile Probation Department feels the juvenile needs additional sanctions not available through diversion.
A Deputy County Attorney with the Apache County Attorney’s Office then will review the case. The Deputy County Attorney may request that the detective furnish additional investigative work to complete the case. If the prosecutor believes the report provides sufficient evidence to indicate the alleged juvenile offender has committed a delinquent act and if, in the prosecutor’s judgment there is reasonable likelihood that the juvenile will be found delinquent at an adjudication hearing, the prosecutor will file a Petition alleging delinquent behavior with the Juvenile Court. Sometimes, the prosecutor determines there is insufficient “legal evidence” which will result in a finding of delinquency and a Petition will not be filed.

Advisory Hearing
If a juvenile defendant is arrested and taken into custody, he/she is taken to the Detention Screening Center. The court will then decide whether or not the juvenile will be held in custody to await a Detained Advisory Hearing. If the juvenile is detained, the County Attorney must determine whether to file charges. Within twenty-four (24) hours after the detention decision, the juvenile must be taken before a Judge for a Detained Advisory Hearing. Many juvenile defendants are released at this hearing to their parents, guardian or person having custody or control of the juvenile, with a personal promise that the juvenile will return to court when required for an Adjudication Hearing.

If the juvenile defendant is not in custody, the juvenile, the juvenile’s parents, guardian or custodian, will be notified to appear before the court within thirty (30) days for an Advisory Hearing.

At the Advisory Hearing, the juvenile defendant is informed of the exact nature of the charges against him/her. The juvenile is also advised that he/she should have an attorney and if he/she cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided at public expense. The juvenile defendant is asked to enter a plea to the charges against him/her. Normally, a plea of “not guilty” is entered and an Adjudication Hearing date is set. Defendants are entitled to speedy trial. An Adjudication Hearing must be set within forty-five to sixty (45-60) days after the date of the Advisory Hearing. In extraordinary circumstances, the Adjudication Hearing may occur later.

If the juvenile defendant enters a plea of “guilty” at the Advisory Hearing, a Disposition Hearing date is set or the Disposition Hearing can take place immediately after the juvenile’s change of plea. If you are a victim, please be aware that a guilty plea and even disposition can occur at the Advisory Hearing. Therefore, if you want to exercise your rights as a victim, you should attend the Advisory Hearing in case all these things should occur at the same time.

Contact between the juvenile defendant and victims or witnesses is restricted. It is against the law for anyone to harass or intimidate a witness. Any harassment should be reported to the police, the prosecutor, or the Victim Services Division as soon as possible. Remember that if the harassment is not reported, it probably will not stop.

Pre-Adjudication Actions/Hearings
After the Advisory Hearing, there are many activities performed in preparation for the Adjudication Hearing. By Arizona Rules of Procedure for the Juvenile Court, both the prosecutor and the defense must disclose information to the other party. This process, called discovery, includes providing the juvenile’s defense attorney with a copy of the police report and any other written information and includes interviews with prospective witnesses. In Arizona, the defense has the right to interview all of the State’s witnesses prior to adjudication or a plea agreement. However, if you are a victim, you have the right to refuse to submit to a pre-adjudication interview, deposition or other discovery request by the juvenile defendant, the juvenile’s attorney or other person acting on behalf of the juvenile defendant. If anyone approaches you about the case, you should insist that he/she identify him/herself as representing either the prosecution or the defense so that you have the opportunity to exercise your right to refuse a pre-adjudication interview with the juvenile’s defense attorney.

In addition to discovery, there may be court hearings that are scheduled before the adjudication. At these hearings, motions may be heard from either the prosecutor or the defense regarding the admissibility of evidence, pre-adjudication release of the juvenile defendant or other matters of concern to the attorneys or the court.

Transfer to Adult Court
Recent changes to Arizona law allow the prosecution to file most serious offenses directly into adult court if the juvenile offender is fourteen (14) years or older and is accused of a serious felony offense.

A.R.S. 13-501 allows for automatic transfer to adult court if the juvenile is 15 to 18 years old and commits first-degree murder, second-degree murder, forcible sexual assault, armed robbery, aggravated driving or any other violent offense. A juvenile who is at least 14 years old and has been convicted for two prior felonies in Juvenile Court may be directly transferred to adult court if the County Attorney believes it is necessary in order to protect the public.

If the law does not allow filing directly into adult court and it is the opinion of the Apache County Attorney’s Office that the juvenile defendant should be transferred to adult court for criminal prosecution, this office will file a motion with the Court to transfer the juvenile to adult court. In most circumstances, a motion to transfer the juvenile defendant to adult court for criminal prosecution is filed in conjunction with the petition.

A Transfer Hearing may be held thirty (30) days after the date of the Advisory Hearing. If the Motion for Transfer is filed after the Advisory Hearing, the Transfer Hearing may be held thirty (30) days after the filing of the Motion for Transfer.

If the court denies or dismisses the Motion for Transfer, an Adjudication Hearing for the juvenile defendant may take place thirty (30) days after the date of the order denying or dismissing the motion.

Competency of the Juvenile Defendant
If a defense attorney thinks a juvenile may not be competent to be adjudicated because the juvenile cannot assist in his/her defense, the defense attorney may request that the court order a psychiatric evaluation of the juvenile. If the court orders the evaluation, the process typically takes at least one month. A hearing is then scheduled for the Judge to decide if the juvenile defendant is or is not competent to stand trial. After reviewing the reports of the doctors and/or hearing testimony, the Judge makes a determination about the competency of the juvenile defendant. If the Judge determines that the defendant is competent, the case proceeds through the juvenile justice process.

If the juvenile defendant is found to be incompetent, the Judge may order the juvenile defendant to undergo mental health treatment until he/she becomes competent. When the juvenile becomes competent, the case proceeds through the juvenile justice process. If a Judge determines that the juvenile defendant is incompetent and will not become competent in the near future, the Judge has options: the Judge may order that the juvenile be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility for treatment or the Judge may dismiss the charges and the juvenile is then released from custody.

Incompetence is different than insanity. Incompetent means an inability to assist in one’s own defense while insanity means an inability to distinguish right from wrong.

Plea Agreements
Before the Adjudication Hearing, the Deputy County Attorney prosecuting the case may discuss the possibility of a negotiated case settlement with the juvenile’s defense attorney. The defense attorney may seek an agreement for the juvenile to plead guilty to the original charge(s) or to some lesser charge(s), a dismissal of certain charges, or a commitment from the Deputy County Attorney not to file additional charges.

If an agreement is reached, the juvenile enters a plea of guilty as agreed, and signs a form declaring that he/she is knowingly giving up various rights, including his/her right to an Adjudication Hearing and the right to cross-examine witnesses. If you are a victim, you have the right to be present and to make a statement expressing your opinion about the plea agreement. The Judge may consider your opinion when deciding whether or not to accept the plea agreement. Upon the acceptance of the plea agreement, the Judge will enter a finding of delinquency against the juvenile defendant.

It is important to note that there is no mandatory sentencing in the juvenile system. This means the judge has the same sentencing options available whether the juvenile pleads to a felony or a misdemeanor.

If a plea agreement is not reached, the case may go to an Adjudication Hearing. All parties to the case, including the prosecution witnesses and defense witnesses, will be subpoenaed (summoned) to testify before a Judge. Witnesses may be excluded from the courtroom until they are finished testifying. The argument for this rule is to ensure that a witness is not influenced by the testimony of another witness. If you are a victim, you have the right to be present throughout the hearing. Since there are no jury trials in juvenile court, the Judge will determine whether or not the juvenile is innocent or guilty of committing a delinquent act after hearing the facts of the case.

At the Adjudication Hearing, the prosecution and the defense may make opening statements to the Judge to explain the case. The Deputy County Attorney then presents the case against the juvenile defendant. It is the responsibility of the State to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a delinquent act was committed and the juvenile defendant is guilty of committing the act. To meet this burden of proof, the Deputy County Attorney presents evidence and calls witnesses to testify. Witnesses are required to testify under oath and may be cross-examined by the juvenile’s defense attorney.

After the prosecutor presents the case against the juvenile defendant, the defense has an opportunity to present its evidence. On advice of counsel, the juvenile may or may not testify. As is the case with prosecution witnesses, defense witnesses are subject to cross-examination by the prosecutor.

Following the defense’s case, rebuttal witnesses may be called by the prosecutor to discredit statements and facts presented by the defense. At the end of the Adjudication Hearing, attorneys for the prosecution and defense make their final arguments to the Judge.

The prosecution must prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the Judge makes a determination, after hearing all of the evidence, that the juvenile defendant is “not guilty,” it means that in the Judge’s opinion, the State failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and the juvenile defendant is released. If this occurs, the State cannot appeal the Judge’s verdict and the matter cannot be retried. If the Judge determines that the juvenile defendant is delinquent, the Judge sets a date for the Disposition Hearing.

If the juvenile defendant pleads guilty to the delinquent act, or if the juvenile is adjudicated delinquent (found guilty), the Judge will set a date for the Disposition Hearing and will also request a Pre-Disposition Report on the juvenile from the Apache County Juvenile Probation Department. A Disposition Hearing will be held for a juvenile in custody no later than thirty (30) days after the adjudication of delinquency and not later than forty-five (45) days for a juvenile who is not in custody.

The Predisposition report discusses the juvenile delinquent’s behavior, family life and any other delinquent act he/she may have committed and will contain a recommendation for a specific disposition or sentence. The Juvenile Probation Officer will contact the victim(s) as part of the investigation. The victim may also submit a written statement to the Judge through the Probation Officer. This statement may contain the victim’s request for restitution, the repayment of monetary losses suffered by the victim. In some situations, when either the Deputy County Attorney or the juvenile’s defense attorney has strong feelings about the recommended disposition of the juvenile, testimony especially relevant to the disposition may be heard at the Disposition Hearing. If you are the victim of a delinquent act, you are allowed to make a statement to the Judge at the time of the juvenile’s Disposition Hearing.

The Judge may order the defendant to pay restitution if the victim has suffered a monetary loss directly related to the delinquent act or may order the delinquent to perform community service in lieu of restitution. If the juvenile is under fifteen years of age, the Judge cannot order the juvenile to work for wages in order to pay restitution. If restitution is ordered by the Judge, it will be paid as a condition of probation or conditional liberty/parole. Restitution payments are paid to the Clerk of the Court who then mails the payments to the victim. Restitution also can be ordered against the parent(s).

Probation, Commitment to Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, Parole
If the juvenile delinquent is placed on probation or intensive probation, they may be under many restrictions of conduct and travel. Any inappropriate action by a juvenile delinquent placed on probation, including unauthorized contact with victims and witnesses, should be reported to the Apache County Juvenile Probation Office.

A juvenile may be sentenced to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections until the age of 18. Normally, however, the court sentences a juvenile to a specific term (i.e. six months). If the court does not specify a specific length of time, the ADJC may release the juvenile at any time. Once the juvenile is released, he/she will be on parole under the supervision of the ADJC until they deem it appropriate to end parole supervision.

If you are a victim, you have the right to be notified of a Parole Hearing by the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, and you have the right to be heard at any Parole Hearing. You also have the right to be informed by the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, on request, when the juvenile is released from confinement. The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections will notify you if the juvenile escapes.

A juvenile delinquent’s placement on probation or commitment to the Arizona Department of Corrections terminates when the juvenile reaches the age of eighteen (18).

At any stage of the proceeding, the juvenile has the right to appeal any final order of the court. An appeal is a format request from the juvenile through the juvenile’s defense attorney asking for an appellate court to review the case to determine if all of the juvenile delinquent’s rights were observed and the procedures and laws were followed. The Apache County Attorney’s Office will handle the appeal on behalf of the State. Cases are reviewed on appeal in writing. In some cases, oral arguments of the attorneys are heard by the court. The testimony of victims and witnesses is not allowed.