The Juvenile Justice Process
The steps in the Virginia Juvenile Justice System are shown in the Juvenile Justice System Flowchart and described below.
- The juvenile enters the system when an offense is committed and reported by a parent,
citizen, agency complaint, or the police.
- If the juvenile entered the system through police contact, a decision is made whether
to counsel and release the youth back to the community or to arrest. If a parent,
citizen, or agency made the complaint, then the complaint goes to intake.
- An intake officer at the court service unit makes the decision whether to take informal
action such as crisis-shelter care, detention outreach, or counseling; to take no
action; or to file a petition. In some cases, a police officer or the original complainant
will appeal to the magistrate if they disagree with the intake officer's decision.
The magistrate must certify the charge and the matter is returned to intake to file
- Once a petition has been filed, an intake officer decides if the juvenile should
be detained or released to his or her parents/guardians. The decision is based on
the juvenile's risk to self, community, or flight.
- If the decision is made to detain the juvenile, a detention hearing is held within
72 hours in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to determine the
need for further detention and examine the merits of the charges.
- A preliminary hearing is held to ensure that the case has enough merit to carry
it to trial. Issues of competency, insanity, subpoenas, and witnesses are also addressed.
If no probable cause exists, the case is dismissed. If cause is determined then
the case moves to the adjudicatory hearing. Also during this phase issues of transfers
and waivers are addressed by the court. If certification is ordered or a direct
indictment issued, the case goes to the circuit court (see sections 12-13).
- Innocence or guilt is determined at the adjudicatory hearing. Witnesses and testimony
are presented similar to an adult trial. If found not guilty, the case is dismissed.
If found guilty, a dispositional hearing is held.
- At the dispositional hearing, the pre-disposition report (social history) is used
to assist in selecting appropriate sanctions and services. The court decides if
the juvenile will be committed to DJJ or face community sanctions such as warnings,
restitutions, or fines. A conditional disposition may be imposed such as probation,
which includes participation in CSU programs, referral to local services or facilities,
to other agencies, to private or boot camp placement, or to post-dispositional detention.
Once the requirements have been met, the juvenile is released by the court.
- If committed to DJJ, the juvenile must undergo psychological, educational, social,
and medical evaluations conducted at RDC.
- From RDC, the juvenile may go to a privately operated residential facility or a
juvenile correctional center (JCC). At the JCC, a committed juvenile receives 24-hour
supervision, education, treatment services, recreational services, and a variety
of special programs.
- After completion of the commitment period, a juvenile may be placed on parole or
directly released. During parole, the juvenile transitions to the community through
agency program efforts and is afforded local services. Some juveniles may need 24-hour
residential care and treatment services provided by a halfway house. Upon completion
of parole or entry into the adult criminal justice system, the youth is discharged
from the system.
- (Appeals Process and Circuit Court Cases) A case may be sent into the appeals process
following the dispositional hearing. After presentation to the circuit court, the
case is reconsidered and the issue of guilt is examined. If the juvenile is found
not guilty, the case is dismissed. If found guilty, the circuit court judge administers
an appropriate juvenile disposition.
- If the circuit court received the case through a direct indictment, a trial will
take place. If found not guilty, the case is dismissed. If found guilty, the judge
will decide whether to render a juvenile disposition or an adult sentence.