Richmond Virginia Juvenile Law

Who is a juvenile?

According to the law of Virginia, any person under the legal age, that is 18 years of age, is considered a juvenile.

What is juvenile law?

The juvenile law deals with the crimes, punishments and all such matters regarding juveniles. Basically, it deals with the law of all people under the legal age, who cannot be held accountable or be persecuted in the same way as adults are. Majority of these laws are found in the Code of Virginia Title 16.1.

What is the nature of the juvenile justice system?

The juvenile justice system is very different from that of adults, while the purpose of normal courts is to eliminate crimes and eradicate criminals, juvenile justice systems are more focused on rehabilitation of the accused kids to stop them from becoming future criminals.

How different is adult justice system different from juvenile justice system?

Aside from the nature of the two justice systems, there are many other differences between the two like the terms in the legal jargon. For example:

Adult Justice System Terms Juvenile Justice System Terms
Arrest Taken Into Custody
Crime Offense
Found guilty Found delinquent
Parole Aftercare
Trial Adjudicatory hearing

What are the steps in Virginia’s juvenile justice process?

The justice process means the entire step by step cycle a delinquent or an accused juvenile will go through in the justice system.

  1. This is the initial entry of a juvenile into the system after being reported for an offense. If it a minor offense, like a minor traffic violation then the law enforcement officers will simply issue a court summons. However, if the offense is slightly more serious than that, then the juvenile will have to go through the intake process.
  2. The juvenile court intake entails the authorized intake officer to either take informal action or file a petition and take formal action.
  3. The informal action involves referral to counseling, crisis shelter or any other such course of action in order to divert the complaint from reaching the juvenile justice system. Diversion, however, is mostly the route used for first offenses.
  4. If the juvenile opts for the option of taking a formal action and filing a petition then he will also need to decide whether to detain the juvenile or to release him under the supervision of his guardians or parents. However, all this is based on a judgment call made by the officer depending on the chances of the juvenile running away, self-harm or risk to the community.
  5. If the juvenile is detained then a detention hearing will be held within 72 hours in the Juvenile District Court. This hearing will decide whether the juvenile will be released immediately or detained for longer.
  6. The case is very different in adjudicatory hearings, where the trial is very similar to the adult trials with a proper hearing, testimony, and This trial is done to decide whether the juvenile is guilty, if not, then the case is dismissed. If he is found guilty, then a dispositional hearing is held. Many times, judges order a pre-disposition report on the juvenile to reach a better decision. This report includes pertinent information about the juvenile like their background information, family, environment, schooling records, etc.
  7. At dispositional hearings, judges decide the appropriate sanctions, or in other words, the penalties for breaking the law. The judge can assign community sanctions like warnings, fines, etc. They may even assign them probation where they are required to participate in community programs. Or they may even place them in post-dispositional detention. If all other requirements have been met, then the juvenile may be released. Otherwise, the judge may commit the juvenile to the Department of Juvenile Justice, where they will have to undergo social, psychological, medical and educational evaluations, after which they may be placed in a correctional facility. In other cases, they may be allowed to go home, though not without court supervision.
  8. The circuit Court might receive the case through direct indictment, or following the dispositional hearing, the case may be sent in the appeals process.