A criminal law that is associated with people too young to be kept accountable for any sort of criminal acts comes under juvenile law. Most of the states, including Virginia, have set a certain age for accountability of crimes i.e. age below 18. If a person accused of committing the crime is under the age of 18, they are tried as ‘juvenile’ under a different set of laws.
When we talk about the juvenile justice system, it is believed that it is in place to encourage improved behavior rather than to punish i.e. to treat juveniles in a different manner when compared to adults. The purpose of a criminal justice system is to deter any future offenders from attempting the crime again, debilitate criminals, and sentence convicted criminals. This is not the case with Warren Virginia juvenile law as it is more associated with restorative and rehabilitative sanctions. The aim is to deter juveniles from any future criminality. In case juveniles are found guilty of attempting serious crimes such as a felony crime, they might be moved to adult court.
How is the juvenile justice system organized in Warren Virginia?
It is believed that Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (J&DR) is included in each district when we talk about Juvenile Justice system along with detention centers, law enforcement agencies, juvenile correctional facilities, and juvenile offenders programs.
Juvenile justice process
- Whenever an offense is reported, the juvenile officially enters the system. This could be for any offense such as traffic violation where depending on the offense, the law enforcement agent may issue summon to court.
- If the case is taken to the court, the intake officer can file a petition and take a formal or informal action against the offender.
- If an informal action is taken, it may include counseling, referral to a crisis shelter, or an action that may help avert the case from this justice system.
- In case of formal action, the intake officer has to make a choice between detaining the juvenile or release them to their parents or guardians. This is dependent on the risk juvenile poses to themselves or the community.
- If the intake officer decides to detain the juvenile for whatever reason, a detention hearing is scheduled within 72 hours in the J&DR District Court. This is to evaluate whether there is a need for further detention.
- Prior to the initiation of the case, a preliminary hearing is scheduled to determine that the case has enough merit to continue. The case is dismissed right away if there is no cause found. However, if it is determined, an adjudicatory hearing is held.
- Testimonies and witnesses are presented at the adjudicatory hearing, as it happens in an adult criminal case. The judge has the authority to decide if the juvenile is guilty or not. The case is dismissed if the juvenile is not found guilty. However, in case of guilty, a dispositional hearing is scheduled at the earliest. Many times, judges decide to hold a pre-disposition hearing that helps in determining an appropriate position.