The information below describes the juvenile court process in Colorado.
The juvenile court process begins with an alleged delinquent act.Children are brought to court in four different ways:
- By arrest warrant.
- By being detained by law enforcement.
- Notice of Appearance issued by the District Attorney with a first court appearance date. A failure to appear can result in an arrest warrant. Information for how to obtain an attorney from the public defender should be on this document.
- Summons and Complaint issued with a first court appearance date. A failure to appear can result in an arrest warrant. Information for how to obtain an attorney from the public defender should be on this document.
If you are detained or arrested on a warrant, you will be evaluated by a screening team which will make recommendations to the juvenile court concerning whether you should be released or admitted to a detention or shelter facility. At that point, you may be released to your parent or detained at the juvenile detention center. Within 48 hours after being detained, you must appear in court for a detention hearing and the Judge will decide whether you are released under a safety plan or will remain detained in the detention center. A lawyer will be present with you to advocate for your expressed interests. Your next court date will be similar to a juvenile brought to court by summons or notice, except the District Attorney may file formal charges.
At the first court appearance, you will be advised of your rights and charges. If a public defender has not already been obtained, one can be requested or retained counsel may be contacted. In some cases, a Guardian Ad Litum (GAL) may be appointed. The Court will set the next court date.
The setting and naming of court dates can vary among jurisdictions. Ultimately, you will eventually need to decide whether to engage in plea bargaining, enter a not guilty plea, or plead guilty to the charges.
If you plead not guilty, an adjudicatory trial will be set. At trial, the District Attorney has the burden to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are found guilty at trial, sentencing is set. Similarly if you plead guilty, sentencing is set. If you are found not guilty, then the case is closed.
Here are just a few of the definitions of terms as they are used in juvenile court.
- Adjudication: means a determination by the court or by a jury, if the juvenile is entitled to a jury trial, that it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to the trier of fact that the juvenile has committed a delinquent act or that a juvenile has pled guilty to committing a delinquent act. In addition, when a previous conviction must be pled and proven as an element of an offense or for purposes of sentence enhancement, “adjudication” means conviction.
- Adult: This is a person eighteen years of age or older. The exceptions to this definition are that any person eighteen years of age or older who is under the continuing jurisdiction of the court, who is before the court for an alleged delinquent act committed prior to his eighteenth birthday shall be referred to as a juvenile.
- Commit: as used in article 2 of title 19, means to transfer legal custody. This can include transfer to legal custody to the division of youth corrections.
- Delinquent Act: A violation of the law over which juvenile court has jurisdiction is a delinquent act. This includes violations of state and federal statutes and court orders. There are certain violations of state law over which juvenile court does not have jurisdiction. These include non-felony state traffic laws, parks and recreation and game and fish laws or regulations, and offenses concerning tobacco products by an underage person. A juvenile who is charged with committing one of these offenses has his or her case heard in county court.
- Detention: The temporary care of any child who requires secure custody in physically restricting facilities pending sentencing is known as detention. In an adult case, it would be the same as placing a person in jail.
- Juvenile: A person under the age of eighteen is considered a juvenile. In the juvenile justice system, this term is used refer to a juvenile who is charged with committing a delinquent act.
- Juvenile Delinquent: A juvenile who has been found guilty of committing delinquent act is classified a juvenile delinquent.
- Sentencing Hearing: This is a hearing to determine what sentence should be imposed on a juvenile delinquent.