What to expect in a juvenile case

With so many different processes and legal terms to learn, juvenile cases can seem confusing, intimidating and overwhelming. However, they don’t have to be. Legal guardian resources are available in Stark County to help you prepare. Learn what to expect during a juvenile case, including details about the court, the rights of minors, and the roles of parents, teachers and guardians.

Terms you should know

If a child under the age of 18 is charged for a delinquent or unruly offense, he or she will enter into the justice system as a juvenile case. Throughout the proceedings, you may be required to attend meetings, complete forms or visit the court, and the following are some of the common terms you should know:

Police contact/arrest

Police can stop to question a young person as long as they have a good reason for doing so. When law enforcement arrests a juvenile, they can either take them into custody or release them to a trusted adult.

A complaint filed in juvenile court

An alternative to a police arrest is detainment due to a formal complaint. These complaints can be filed by police, school officials (common for truancy claims) or another member of the community.

Juvenile court intake

Intake is the first step in juvenile proceedings. During this process, the intake officer decides whether a charge should be handled by the courts or if the young person should be referred to a rehabilitative community program. Cases that are diverted will have no official court record.


Once they have been taken into custody, a juvenile is held at a temporary detention center (in Stark County, this takes place at the Stark Attention Center) as the court determines whether or not they should be released or detained.


After it has been determined whether or not the young person will be detained, the courts will present the child with the formal complaints that are filed against them. They will be advised of their rights and asked to enter a plea.

Pleas & plea bargaining

The child facing a juvenile complaint will be asked to submit a plea of either guilty or not guilty. They also have the option to discuss the case with the prosecutor and their attorney to bargain and settle on a mutually-beneficial agreement.


Depending on the local court, a child may or may not have a pretrial hearing. During a pretrial, attorneys typically request a mental health and/or competency evaluation to ensure the juvenile’s ability to participate in the hearing.

Adjudicatory hearing

An adjudicatory hearing gives a young person the opportunity to admit that they committed the act they are being accused of, or to deny and contest the charge in court. The judge or magistrate will rule on the case and set a date for the dispositional hearing. Whether or not the juvenile will be detained during this time depends on the seriousness of the crime and their previous record.

Dispositional hearing

Similar to a sentencing hearing for an adult, the dispositional hearing is where the judge determines the child’s punishment. Many times, a dispositional hearing will be preceded by an investigation into the child, their home life and their performance in school, all in an attempt to get to know the child and provide a fair ruling.


The judge may sentence the young person to probation, which means they are released back into their home or the community under certain conditions. The child should be provided clear and specific rules to help guide their time on probation.

Transfer to adult court

Young people over the age of 14 can be transferred to the jurisdiction of the adult court. This move is either carried out as a discretionary or mandatory factor, typically as a result of the severity of the crime, the young person’s previous record and a range of other factors.