WHAT IS THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM?

The juvenile probation victim assistance coordinator in your county can explain the system in detail, but here is a brief summary:

“THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION”

For minor violations, law enforcement may simply warn juveniles and release them to their parents. When further action is needed to the case is forwarded to local juvenile probation officials.

THE INTAKE PROCESS

Intake is the process where juvenile probation officials review the facts of the case and decide the course ahead. A juvenile’s case may be resolved through a supervisory caution, mediation, deferred prosecution, or formal juvenile court action. At intake, the juvenile officials will decide whether juveniles will be released to their parents or guardians, or be detained in a secure juvenile detention center.

DETENTION

If a juvenile is detained, the juvenile court generally must hold a hearing on the matter within two working days. At this initial hearing and subsequent hearings held every ten working days, the judge must determine if there is just cause to continue detaining the juvenile. Detention hearings may take place before the victim has been contacted. If you have concern for your safety, you should notify law enforcement and the juvenile probation department immediately so this information may be brought to the attention of the person making the decision about releasing the juvenile.

DEFERRED PROSECUTION

Juvenile probation officers may decide not to proceed with juvenile court action. In such cases, the juvenile may be placed on “deferred prosecution” for no more than six months. During that time, the juvenile must meet certain terms or the case could be referred to the prosecutor’s office for subsequent court action. Making restitution to the victim or performing community service may be included in the juvenile’s deferred prosecution program.

ADJUDICATION

In a court proceeding called an adjudication hearing the juvenile accused of the crime, the juvenile’s family and attorney appear before a judge or a jury that will decide if the juvenile committed a delinquent act or conduct indicating need of r supervision. If a court finds that the juvenile has engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need of supervision, the court will set a date and time for a separate disposition hearing.

DISPOSITION

At the disposition hearing, the court may order:

  • Probation
  • Placement in a residential facility, or
  • Commitment to the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) the states juvenile system. ( www.tyc.state.tx.us )

For certain serious offenses, the court may use determinant sentencing. A determinate sentence begins in a Texas Youth Commission Facility, followed by an optional court transfer to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison.

At the disposition hearing, victims have the right to provide pertinent information about the impact of the offense on the victim and the victim’s family. This may be done through testimony, a written statement or any other manner before the court makes it’s decision. One way to do this is to meet with the juvenile probation officer conducting a pre-disposition investigation. The other way is to complete a Victim Impact Statement.

Subject to the judge’s approval, victims, guardians of victims and close relatives of deceased victims may appear at the disposition hearing.

YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN JUVENILE PROCEEDINGS

As a victim, you have the right to file a victim impact statement and have it considered in juvenile proceedings. You also have the right to be present at all public court proceedings involving the juvenile, subject to approval of the judge. You need to contact the juvenile probation victim assistance coordination in your county. The coordinator and the juvenile board are responsible for ensuring that victims are afforded their rights.

TEXAS JUVENILE PROBATION COMMISSION
(512) 424-6283

TEXAS YOUTH COMMISSION
(512) 424-6072

Information on Juvenile Proceedings