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Juvenile Justice Process Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Juvenile Delinquent and a Juvenile Offender?

A Juvenile Delinquent is a child between ages 7 and 15 who has committed an offense. All juvenile delinquency cases are heard in Family Court

A youth who is 13, 14 or 15 years old and has committed a very serious felony, may be tried as an adult in the New York City Supreme Court. If found guilty, the youth is called a Juvenile Offender, and is subject to more serious penalties than a Juvenile Delinquent.

Where does my child go when he/she is arrested?

Depending on your child’s age and the alleged offense, the Police Officer may process the case in a few different ways. The Police may do one of the following:

  1. Release your child to you
  2. Release your child with a Family Court Appearance Ticket (directing your child to report to court on a certain date)
  3. Bring your child directly to the Family Court, if the Court is open, or to the Criminal Court
  4. Bring your child to an ACS detention center for intake, if the Family Court is closed. Your child may be seen by Probation and be released to you, or your child may stay in detention and be transported to court on the next court day

What happens after my child is arrested as a Juvenile Delinquent?

The New York City Department of Probation (DOP) conducts an interview with the child, the family, the Police Officer, and the victim. Based on the interviews, the probation officer may refer the case to a prosecutor with the New York City Law Department to file a juvenile delinquency petition in the Family Court based on the interviews.

Instead of referring the case to the Law Department, the Probation Officer may “adjust” the case. This means that DOP will send the child home and monitor him or her for up to 60 days. If the child follows all the rules and conditions, the case would end without Family Court involvement. However, if the child is not complying with DOP supervision, the Probation Officer will work with the Law Department to file a juvenile delinquency petition in Family Court.

Does my child need a lawyer?

Your child will need a lawyer to represent him or her in Family Court if a juvenile delinquency case is filed. The Court will assign one free of cost if you cannot afford one.

While the court case is pending, does my child get to come home?

The Family Court Judge decides where the child should go for the duration of the court case at the initial court appearance. The Judge will order your child to an ACS detention facility if they have reason to believe that your child will get in trouble again or skip upcoming court dates.

The judge can send a child home or place the child under the supervision of Probation or an alternative-to-detention program the Judge believes that the child can be safe in the community.

What is a fact-finding hearing?

A fact-finding hearing is similar to a criminal trial in the adult Court system. The Judge hears evidence from the prosecutor and the child to determine whether the child committed the offense described in the petition. If the Court finds that the child committed the offense, it will schedule a dispositional hearing to determine whether the child is in need of probation supervision, treatment, or placement.

What happens at the dispositional hearing?

The dispositional hearing is similar to the sentencing hearing in the adult system. The Judge receives evidence from the probation officer about the youth’s case history, behavior, and progress. The Court may order a Mental Health Study by the clinic in the Family Court if the Judge feels that information will be helpful in determining the disposition of the case. Parents and other people with information helpful to the Court may also testify.

Based on the testimonies and any supporting documents, the Court decides which option would best meet the needs of the youth. The Court has the following options:

  1. Send the youth home without Court supervision, but with certain conditions set by the Court, which is called a conditional discharge
  2. Send the youth home under Probation supervision
  3. Send the youth home and put him or her in an alternative-to-placement program
  4. Place the youth in a Close to Home placement facility

What is expected of my child if he is placed in a community-based program or under Probation supervision?

Your child is expected to follow the rules and conditions of the program and the Probation Officer. Probation could ask the Court to place him or her in a residential placement program if your child does not follows these rules.

Watch a video for families produced by the Center for Court Innovation that helps explain the juvenile justice process and answers common questions and concerns

Download a Guide to the Juvenile Justice System for Youth

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