Navigating the juvenile justice system can be challenging without help. Having an attorney by your side is critical! And should be a first step to protecting your rights. Our attorneys are available to assist you in the community and in the courthouse.
Yes, whenever possible before communicating with the police and or as soon as police make an arrest, it is best to speak with an attorney. An attorney will help protect your rights. For example, even if the police want to ask you questions about an incident they are investigating, you should not speak with police without first speaking with an Attorney, no matter what the police may say to convince you to talk to them.
You or your parent may contact The Legal Aid Society office in your borough to get advice about what to do.
If an arrest is unavoidable, one of our attorneys can help to navigate that process with the police.
For example, if the police are requesting that you come to the precinct, one of our Attorneys can go with you or call in advance to invoke your right to have an attorney present before any questioning or line-up.
If you do not get legal advice before an arrest is made, and you are brought to court, an Attorney will be appointed to represent you in court.
If you are arrested a number of things may happen:
At court, an intake Probation Officer (PO) will meet with you and your parent or guardian to talk about:
The intake PO will also interview the complaining witness (the person who claims you committed the offense). The intake PO will then either decide that your case is appropriate for adjustment or refer the case for investigation.
Adjustment is an early resolution of a case through the Department of Probation (DOP). Adjustment does not mean you are pleading guilty. If you successfully complete adjustment, your record will be permanently sealed.
Referral for Investigation – If your case is not appropriate for adjustment, DOP will refer the case to the NYC Law Department, Office of the Corporation Counsel (which is the prosecutor, or presentment agency in Juvenile Delinquency matters). A referral for investigation does not mean you have been found guilty or that you will even be charged with an offense.
An Assistant Corporation Counsel (ACC) will interview witnesses, examine evidence, and research the law. The ACC may ask to speak to you as well (although not about the underlying charges), but you are not required to speak to the You may receive a rescheduling notice to come back to court so the case can be fully investigated. The investigation by the ACC can lead to three possible outcomes:
Petition and Initial Appearance
At the initial appearance, you will receive a copy of the petition (a legal document describing the offenses you are alleged to have committed). You have an absolute right to an attorney, known as the Attorney for Child, throughout the case. An attorney will be appointed for Parents and guardians do not have attorneys in juvenile delinquency proceedings, although the judge, Probation, the ACC, and the Attorney for Child may seek their input. The judge will decide whether you will be released to or remain in the custody of the parent(s)/legal guardian or detained.
The judge can consider the decision for you to remain at home or be in a detention facility throughout the case. It is very important for you and your parent/legal guardian be present at every court.
The judge can set conditions for release, which may include obeying curfew, attending school, attending an Alternative to Detention (ATD) program, or obeying an Order of Protection telling you to stay away from a person
Or, the judge can order you to stay in a detention facility run by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). Visiting and phone communication information will be provided to you at the initial appearance.
At this stage, usually called the trial, the judge will hear testimony from witnesses and determine whether you committed an offense. You are presumed innocent unless and until the ACC can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have committed an offense. The trial may last for a few days or several months, depending on the court’s schedule and whether you are detained. If the judge finds that you committed any of the acts listed in the petition, and finds you guilty, the case will proceed to disposition. If the judge does not find that you committed any of the charged offense, your case will be dismissed and sealed.
Disposition of the Case
When the court makes a finding, the judge will order an investigation and report from Probation, which will make recommendations based on information about your family, school, and social history. The judge may also order a mental health evaluation. It is important that you cooperate with these interviews. At disposition, the judge must consider your needs and best interests as well as the safety of the community. A case may receive one of the following outcomes.
Even if the judge finds that you committed an offense, the judge may decide that you do not need supervision or The judge will dismiss the case, which will be immediately sealed.
Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD)
If you comply with court-ordered conditions the case will be dismissed and sealed.
Conditional Discharge (CD)
You must comply with court-ordered conditions for up to one year.
A Probation Officer and the Attorney for the Child will explain the terms of probation to you. Probation can be for up to 24 You may be required to participate in an alternative-to-placement (ATP) program, receiving therapeutic or supportive services from a communitybased agency.
Placement – Removal from home
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 8 August 2023
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