Juvenile Criminal Charges

If your child is charged by the authorities for allegedly committing a criminal act, you should not think that the matter will simply go away since your child is underage. 

Although the public cannot access juvenile records, a felony conviction in juvenile court will remain on your child’s criminal record for the rest of their lives.  Juvenile misdemeanor convictions do go away, but that does not occur until your child turns nineteen years old or five years after the offense is committed, whichever occurs later in time.

A juvenile can be sentenced to serve time in a detention center—juvenile jail.  A juvenile can also be sentenced to serve up to three years in one of the Department of Juvenile Justice Detention Centers located in different nine locations throughout the state.  Furthermore, juveniles can be transferred to adult court for more serious felony offenses, and, if found guilty, could be sentenced to serve a prison sentence in an adult facility. 

The juvenile detention center for the City of Fredericksburg, Stafford County, Spotsylvania County and King George County is the Rappahannock Juvenile Detention Center.  It is located at 275 Wyche Road, Stafford, VA 22555.  The phone number of the facility is (540) 658-1691.

The juvenile detention center for the City of Richmond is the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center.  It is located at 1700 Oliver Hill Way, Richmond, VA 23219.  The phone number for the facility is (804) 646-2937.

A brief overview of the juvenile justice process in Virginia:

  1. The juvenile enters the system when an offense is committed and reported by a parent, citizen, agency complaint, or the police.
  2. If the juvenile entered the system through police contact, a decision is made whether to counsel and release the youth back to the community or to arrest. If a parent, citizen, or agency made the complaint, then the complaint goes to intake.
  3. An intake officer at the court service unit makes the decision whether to take informal action such as crisis-shelter care, detention outreach, or counseling; to take no action; or to file a petition. In some cases, a police officer or the original complainant will appeal to the magistrate if they disagree with the intake officer's decision. The magistrate must certify the charge and the matter is returned to intake to file a petition.
  4. Once a petition has been filed, an intake officer decides if the juvenile should be detained or released to his or her parents/guardians. The decision is based on the juvenile's risk to self, community, or flight.
  5. If the decision is made to detain the juvenile, a detention hearing is held within 72 hours in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to determine the need for further detention and examine the merits of the charges.
  6. For felony charges, a preliminary hearing is held to ensure that the case has enough merit to carry it to trial. Issues of competency, insanity, subpoenas, and witnesses are also addressed. If no probable cause exists, the case is dismissed. If cause is determined then the case moves to the adjudicatory hearing. Also during this phase issues of transfers and waivers are addressed by the court. If certification is ordered or a direct indictment issued, the case goes to the circuit court.
  7. Innocence or guilt is determined at the adjudicatory hearing. Witnesses and testimony are presented similar to an adult trial. If found not guilty, the case is dismissed. If found guilty, a dispositional hearing is held.
  8. At the dispositional hearing, the pre-disposition report (social history) is used to assist in selecting appropriate sanctions and services. The court decides if the juvenile will be committed to Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) or face community sanctions such as warnings, restitutions, or fines. A conditional disposition may be imposed such as probation, which includes participation in Court Services Unit (CSU) programs, referral to local services or facilities, to other agencies, to private or boot camp placement, or to post-dispositional detention. Once the requirements have been met, the juvenile is released by the court.
  9. If committed to DJJ, the juvenile must undergo psychological, educational, social, and medical evaluations conducted at Reception and Diagnostic Center (RDC).
  10. From RDC, the juvenile may go to a privately operated residential facility or a juvenile correctional center (JCC). At the JCC, a committed juvenile receives 24-hour supervision, education, treatment services, recreational services, and a variety of special programs.
  11. After completion of the commitment period, a juvenile may be placed on parole or directly released. During parole, the juvenile transitions to the community through agency program efforts and is afforded local services. Some juveniles may need 24-hour residential care and treatment services provided by a halfway house. Upon completion of parole or entry into the adult criminal justice system, the youth is discharged from the system.
  12. (Appeals Process and Circuit Court Cases) A case may be sent into the appeals process following the dispositional hearing. After presentation to the circuit court, the case is reconsidered and the issue of guilt is examined. If the juvenile is found not guilty, the case is dismissed. If found guilty, the circuit court judge administers an appropriate juvenile disposition.
  13.  If the circuit court received the case through a direct indictment, a trial will take place. If found not guilty, the case is dismissed. If found guilty, the judge will decide whether to render a juvenile disposition or an adult sentence.

As you can see, a charge in juvenile court can be a very serious thing that has long term consequences.  It can be a complex process with many surprises or dire results for those unfamiliar with the process.  Jonathan David has extensive experience in Juvenile Courts throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.  He is here to help you navigate you and your child through this difficult time.