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Understanding dispositional orders for juvenile offenses

A criminal record can have a profound effect on a young person's life. For those who are arrested for what would be a crime if the person was an adult and they are older than 7 and younger than 16, they might be labeled as a juvenile delinquent. This is to supervise, treat or confine the juvenile. Depending on the crime, a juvenile between 13 and 15 can be charged as an adult. These individuals will not be considered a juvenile delinquent if they are convicted, but will be called a juvenile offender. A key part of these cases is the dispositional hearing.

When there is a dispositional hearing, a judge will determine if the person is a juvenile delinquent and how to address the situation. Testimony will be given by the probation officer regarding the juvenile's behavior while at home and school and if there are other court cases in which he or she was involved. Parents, guardians and others who have information to share might be allowed to testify. Recommendations as to how to deal with the situation can be provided by the probation officer. These can range from a conditional discharge, an order of probation or the juvenile being placed in a facility. If there was damage, the juvenile can be ordered to pay restitution. If there were injuries to another as part of the criminal activity, the juvenile can be ordered to pay for medical expenses.

The judge will decide on the disposition. It is possible that the judge will decide that the juvenile does not require supervision, confinement or treatment and the petition could be dismissed. It can also be dismissed after there was an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. The case will then be on hold for six months to determine whether it should be dismissed. A failure on the part of the juvenile to obey the conditions of the dispositional order can lead to a violation petition and there might be another dispositional hearing. A different disposition can be ordered if there was a violation.

A mistake that parents and guardians often make when a juvenile is facing charges is to ignore the basic need to prepare a legal defense. A lawyer can be of assistance with the allegations and penalties associated with juvenile offenses and is the first call that the parents should make before the dispositional hearing and order.

Source: nycourts.gov, "Juvenile Delinquency," accessed on March 19, 2018

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