We have compiled a list of Juvenile Court frequently asked questions (a FAQ). Click on a question to display its answer. We recommend clicking on the "Show all answers" link below, prior to printing this page.
Generally they are not open to the public, unless the juvenile was 14 years of age or older at the time of the alleged conduct and the alleged conduct would be considered a felony if committed by an adult.
What is the proper attire for Court?
It is recommended that people wear appropriate courtroom attire. It is highly suggested that you do not wear: shorts, jeans, tee shirts, sweatshirts, halter tops, tank tops, or flip flops.
A juvenile is entitled to representation by legal counsel at all stages of any proceedings. If a juvenile is without financial resources or otherwise unable to hire counsel, he/she in entitled to have the Court provide counsel for him/her.
The Lehigh County Juvenile Probation Department receives referrals from four sources, the police (most of our referrals), Interstate Compact on Juveniles, county to county transfers, and Magistrates for Nonpayment of Costs and Fines. When the case is referred by a local police jurisdiction, the officer completes a Written Allegation, which is required by the Rules of Juvenile Court, and forwards it to the Juvenile Probation Department to initiate the process. Once received, the referral is reviewed by the District Attorney's Office to ensure that the police are charging the juvenile correctly. An intake with the juvenile and his/her parent/guardian is then scheduled within three weeks of receiving the referral. The purpose of the intake is to determine if the juvenile is admitting or denying his/her offense(s) and gather background information to determine the most appropriate disposition for the juvenile, the victim and the community. The Youth Level of Service (YLS) assessment will be completed at the intake interview in order to assist with case planning.
It is a research based assessment tool designed to determine a child's risk, needs and responsivity factors. The YLS helps the probation officer to objectively determine a child's risk of reoffending and the level of needed intervention, based upon the child's history, strengths and social supports.
The completed Juvenile Information Questionnaire you received in the mail along with the juvenile's social security card, birth certificate and the most recent report card.
When a determination is made that an out of court disposition is not appropriate, or if a juvenile is denying a charge, the case is listed for an Adjudication Hearing. An Adjudication Hearing is a hearing to determine guilt or innocence on the alleged charges. If the juvenile is found guilty of any Misdemeanor or Felony charges, the case will proceed to the Disposition which may occur at this hearing or at a later date. The Disposition Hearing determines if the juvenile is in need of treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation. If the Court makes this finding, then the juvenile is adjudicated delinquent. The Court must then decide if the juvenile can be supervised in the community on Probation or if the juvenile should be placed.
All felony charges must be heard by a Judge whereas for the most part misdemeanor charges are heard by a Juvenile Court Hearing Officer. A Juvenile Court Hearing Officer is a Court appointed attorney who presides over specifically defined juvenile delinquency matters. Juveniles have a right to have all matters heard before a Judge.
An Order of the Court which suspends the delinquent proceedings against the juvenile and places the youth under voluntary supervision for six months in length which can be extended for an additional six months. However, it cannot exceed one year, under terms and conditions established by the probation department and agreed to by all parties affected.
An administratively enacted supervision, six months in length and usually has the least amount of conditions, but can be extended for three additional months.
Payments can be made either in person at room 130 of the courthouse or by mail. The Bureau accepts cash, personal checks, money orders, and credit cards (Visa, Master Card, or Discover Card). Credit card payments must be made in person at the courthouse. A $20.00 fee is charged for a personal check returned by the bank due to insufficient or unavailable funds.
All juveniles who have been arrested for Misdemeanor or Felony offenses may be fingerprinted or photographed. If they are found guilty of the offense and adjudicated delinquent, it is a requirement.
If a juvenile is detained, they will have a detention hearing within 72 hours to review probable cause and decide whether the juvenile needs to remain in detention. If the juvenile remains in custody either in detention or being moved to shelter care, they need to have an Adjudication Hearing within 10 days. If they are released from custody, the case is scheduled for Adjudication when the court list permits it. Juveniles released on house arrest will be given priority.
Disposition of the case is handled at the Adjudication Hearing if the Probation Officer has enough information to proceed at that time. If they do not, and may want evaluations or more reports, then they will have a Disposition Hearing within 20 days if they remain in custody. If released from detention, they will return to court when the probation officer has all the evaluations or reports and when the court list permits. This usually occurs within 30 days but is not a mandatory time frame.
Non-detained juveniles will usually have an intake meeting within 2-3 weeks after our office receives the referral from the police. If it is determined that the juvenile needs to go to Court, then Court (Adjudication) will be scheduled once all the co-conspirators (if any) have been interviewed which usually ends up being within 3-6 weeks from the intake date.
If the juvenile shall remain in detention due to their risk to the community or themselves or if the Court believes that the juvenile will not show for future hearings. If there are charges filed against the juvenile then the Court will also need to establish probable cause for the alleged charges.
TThe juvenile probation department makes a strong effort to involve each juvenile's parents in his treatment while under probation supervision. Some duties and expectations that we have of parents would be to report any probation violations to us (including curfew, drug use, etc.), cooperate with any in home counseling services that our department might place in the home and give input and feedback regarding to potential treatment and placement options if those decisions come up in the course of treatment. Parents are also asked, whenever possible, to provide transportation to community service, young offender classes and any other program that is run by our department at the courthouse.
Our department does have the ability to hold parents accountable through the Court process if, for instance, the parent refuses to cooperate with some type of family or in home counseling. This option is rarely taken and most probation officers use the power of persuasion and their communication skills to try to get parents on board with the treatment that we are trying to put into place.
Yes, the Court may determine the appropriateness of parents/guardians being responsible for payments.
What are the levels of contact with juveniles? How does it vary?
The frequency with which juveniles are seen will typically correspond with the Youth Level of Service Inventory score. Contact levels are frequently re-assessed throughout the supervision process.
In accordance with Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) principles and Rule 163 in the Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure, on a bimonthly basis school principals are provided a list of juveniles that were adjudicated delinquent, in addition to the acts committed, and disposition of the case.
Evidence suggests that education is one the top eight criminogenic needs in juvenile offenders. Matching the appropriate intervention to address education needs may lead to a reduction in the likelihood of future delinquent activity.
School contacts account for a portion of the direct contact probation officers have with juveniles. The frequency and duration of these contacts may vary based on the juvenile's specific needs and risk-level. Because collaboration is important, probation officers interact with school administration on many levels. School officials often notify probation officers of any truancy, discipline and/or academic concerns in effort to better address the juvenile's needs. Probation officers may also sit on Student Assistance Programs (SAP) and serve on boards or committees within the schools. Probation officers will notify school administration when a juvenile is court ordered to be placed outside the home for any period of time.
Every juvenile under Court supervision has as a condition of probation that they remain drug and alcohol free. They are also informed that they shall submit to random urinalysis testing. If there is a history of drug use the testing will likely be drug specific; however, monitoring of other uses can be exercised. Frequency of testing is the sole discretion of the supervising probation officer. It could be weekly or monthly. Factors to be considered are the drug and how long it stays in the system. If there is a positive test and the juvenile is on Official Probation, the probation officer has a myriad of options at his/her discretion. These options may range from a verbal reprimand, additional community service hours, house arrest, drug and alcohol evaluation, scheduling a Review of Disposition Hearing or the juvenile may be detained. If the juvenile is detained the Court will be made aware of the violation at a Detention Hearing. A drug evaluation will likely be ordered and recommendations for treatment will follow at a future hearing. If the juvenile is on an Informal Adjustment or Consent Decree, it may be revoked and the juvenile would be scheduled for Court on the original charges.
Non-payment referrals are sent to the Juvenile Probation Department by the Judicial Magistrates when offenders do not comply with the payment agreement and/or any condition or program ordered in lieu of a paying a fine (i.e.: community service, CJP, etc.) Juvenile Probation does not handle non-payment of truancy; however, we do handle Daytime Curfew Violations. The Clerk of Courts office enters the amount of the fine and the additional processing fee into the state collection system and forwards the referral to the probation department. A letter is sent to the juvenile and parent(s)/Guardian(s) explained the charges and an appointment is scheduled. A short intake is conducted with the juvenile and parent/guardian. During the intake a decision is made regarding disposition. This is usually a Payment Plan which allows the juvenile to make monthly payments to pay the fine and the processing fee. If the juvenile is able to pay the fine in full, the processing fee is waived and the case is closed. If the juvenile is unable to pay the fine in full, they can enter into a payment agreement at the time of the intake. Once the payment Plan is processed the case is closed with JPO and referred to Collections. If the juvenile fails to show for two appointments, he/she is scheduled for court.
Discharge from probation:When the supervised juvenile has met all terms and conditions of his/her probation in an appropriate amount of time required to make necessary changes, reparations, and meet responsibilities, while demonstrating remorse and a positive change in behavior previously deemed delinquent in nature. There are specific time frames for juveniles who are placed on an Informal Adjustment or Consent Decree. At times, these juveniles may not have met every condition of their probation within the time frame, but the case does not warrant revoking the Informal Adjustment or Consent Decree and taking it into Court. In those instances, the time parameters will dictate closing the case.
Discharge from placement:When the committed juvenile has achieved all of his/her treatment goals to the best of their ability in the appropriate amount of time required to make necessary changes, reparations, and meet responsibilities, while demonstrating remorse and a positive change in behavior previously deemed delinquent in nature and they no longer pose a risk to themselves or the community. All Court Ordered Placements are reviewed by the Court at a minimum of every six months.
In order to expunge or destroy records a motion must be initiated, which is to take the form of a proposed Court Order, and then approved by the Court. Click here for more information on Expungements.
Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, 455 West Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA 18101-1614 • (610) 782-3000