The Juvenile Division of the Rice County Attorney's Office is responsible for both juvenile delinquencies and child protection matters. Delinquent acts are those acts committed by a juvenile which would be a crime if committed by an adult over the age of 18. Child protection matters are initiated to protect abused or neglected children and to provide services to enable family reunification.
The Delinquency Process
The legal process in delinquency matters is different than the system used in adult court. Juvenile cases are generally closed to the public. The juvenile justice system works to treat and rehabilitate juvenile offenders and cases move swiftly so that the juvenile sees the connection between the delinquent act and the disposition.
The categories of crime also differ from adult court. Juveniles may be a Petty Offender, Traffic Offender or Delinquent. A petty offense would not be a crime if committed by an adult and include curfew and tobacco offenses, alcohol possession and consumption or possession of marijuana. It also includes misdemeanor crimes that are reduced to a petty misdemeanor.
A juvenile traffic offender includes all petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor and felony traffic violations committed by a juvenile younger than the age of 16. Also included are traffic violations committed by juveniles who are 16 or 17 years old, except petty misdemeanor and DWI violations, which are heard in adult court.
Delinquencies arise from a violation of state or local law that is not considered a juvenile petty offense. A Flow Chart for Juvenile Hearings may assist in better understanding the process.
Some delinquency or petty offenses are sent through diversion. If the juvenile does not qualify for diversion or diversion has failed, the matter is referred to court when the prosecutor files a citation or delinquency petition with the court.
Pre-charging diversion is determined by the County Attorney's Office. Notice will be provided to eligible participants, who must then complete the application process. If accepted, a meeting is scheduled with the juvenile and parents to discuss the pre-charge diversion program. Some types of offenses are referred to the Community Corrections Juvenile Diversion Program.
The Child Protection Process
Child Protection proceedings are initiated by the filing of a petition for a Child in Need of Protection or Services or a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights. After a petition is filed, an initial appearance is scheduled. At the initial appearance, parents may request a court appointed counsel.
Truancy petitions may be filed after a child has been absent from school for a period which exceeds the statutory limit. Attending school is essential, not just because it is the law, but also because it is the key to opportunity and earning potential as an adult.