IBA: Juvenile Delinquency 101

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delameter-joe-mug.jpgBy Joe Delamater, Deputy Prosecutor, Juvenile Repeat Offender Unit, Marion County Prosecutor’s Office

Juvenile delinquency cases are unique. Hopefully, I can highlight some areas of delinquency law to help familiarize you with the system. Juvenile delinquency matters are no different than any other case. You are ready once you get over the new terminology and the case-by-case idiosyncrasies.

First know that, distinct from criminal courts, the juvenile court is your gatekeeper. Juvenile courts are required to assess what the best care, treatment and rehabilitation is for each child. The court decides whether charges are approved for filing or whether to afford the child an “informal adjustment,” which is akin to an adult diversion. The court decides whether a child is waived into adult court to face charges, whether commitment to the Department of Correction is appropriate, and how long the child stays on probation. All of this is decided in the best interests of the child and the community. Once you recognize how the court operates all of the rest falls in place around it.

Juvenile delinquency cases are civil. However, the Indiana Juvenile Code adopts the rules governing criminal procedures. IC § 31-32-1-1. Therefore, the burden of proof, trial rules, and rules of evidence that you know and love apply here. The juvenile code, specifically IC § 31-30, 31-32 and 31-37, are your juvenile bible. Know and love these sections because the juvenile code trumps any adopted provisions.

Because these cases are civil, many labels are different. Juveniles aren’t convicted; they are adjudicated delinquent. IC § 31-32-2-6. Therefore, enhancements based on prior convictions do not apply to juveniles. Moreover, juvenile courts enter a dispositional order and not a sentence. Like an adult pre-sentence investigation report (PSI), a pre-dispositional report is created by probation and is similar to the PSI. The accused are respondents and not defendants. The accused enters an admission or denial as they cannot be found “guilty or “not guilty.”

Another difference is the involvement of the probation department. It is completely statutory and rather thorough. IC § 31-31-5-4. Prior to the Initial Hearing, a probation officer (P.O.) performs a preliminary inquiry into various aspects of the child’s and family’s life. The depth of this will vary by county. In Marion County, at the Initial Hearing, a P.O. makes recommendations to the court regarding conditions of release based on their preliminary inquiry. The P.O. stays involved throughout the case and periodically reports back to the court. The P.O. will also make a recommendation at disposition.

Juvenile courts lacks jurisdiction for certain crimes although committed by juveniles. IC § 31-30-1-4. Know that, if your client is sixteen or seventeen, there are a number of crimes that may be filed in adult court. The State can also seek “waiver” and request that a juvenile be tried as an adult when they reach a certain age (this varies by the type of allegation.) Waiver can be requested on any felony under five possible sections. Under Indiana Code §§ 31-30-3-2 through 31-30-3-6, the juvenile court must find both probable cause and that it would be in the “best interests of the child and of the safety and welfare of the community” to be tried as an adult. Sections 4, 5 and 6 are mandatory waiver sections with a presumption of those “best interests” that must be rebutted by the respondent. Sections 2 and 3 are discretionary with part of the State’s burden being to prove the best interests.

Juvenile court has the ability to maintain jurisdiction until the child reaches the age of twenty-one unless sooner discharged. Therefore, juveniles are on probation for as long as the court deems appropriate. There are no orders of “six months” here or “eighteen months” there.

The term of probation lasts until the court feels that the juvenile has been adequately treated and rehabilitated. Remember, the court is the gatekeeper.

Treatment and programs range from nothing (time-served is the adult terminology) up to being committed to the Indiana Department of Correction (to be placed at a juvenile-only facility.) In between those extremes come a variety of services that will vary county to county. The services will attempt to address parts of the juvenile’s life that need help. It could be substance abuse treatment, counseling and therapy, education, and any other area that is felt will help rehabilitate the child. These goals can be accomplished from in-home treatment, community-based services, or secured treatment facilities.

While only a cursory review of the system, hopefully this helps give you the basics of delinquency matters.•


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.