All cases involving children under 17 are handled by the Family Division of the Circuit Court. This includes but is not limited to the following types of offenses:
- Cases involving acts committed by children under the age of 17 which would be considered a criminal offense if committed by an adult
- Instances where a minor repeatedly disobeys his or her parents, fails to attend school or runs away from home
Typically, a Petition will be filed by the Prosecuting Attorney’s offense stating the nature of the offense. An attorney may be appointed by the court to represent the child. Once a petition is filed a series of hearings take place which will determine whether or not the Petition is acceptable or “authorized” and whether or not the child should be held prior to trial.
As in the adult system, the child may decide to plead guilty to the offense or choose to go to trial. If the child is found guilty as charged in the Petition, the court will determine what action needs to be taken.
The court has a number of alternatives. The child can be placed on Probation and will be assigned a Probation Officer from the Family Division. The child works directly with the Probation Officer to ensure that the terms of the probation are completed as ordered by the court. The court may also order the child to the juvenile detention center or an alternate restricted placement depending on the seriousness of the offense.