Delinquency Division

Understanding the Juvenile Criminal Justice Process

In the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, criminal matters involving young people are handled in the Delinquency Division. The primary role of the court in these cases is to determine, based on the evidence presented, whether a juvenile accused of a crime has violated the law.

The Path to Court

  • When a juvenile is arrested, they may either be released to the custody of a relative or detained in jail until they appear before a judge. Following the arrest, the police create a report detailing the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident and the alleged crime. This report is forwarded to the Juvenile Division of the District Attorney's office for review and a decision on whether to prosecute the case.

If the District Attorney chooses to proceed with the case, they file a "Delinquency Petition" with the court, which serves as the formal legal charge against the juvenile. The petition is assigned a case number and randomly allotted to a section of the court.

First Appearance and Legal Representation

  • The juvenile and their parent or guardian must appear before a judge within a day or two of the arrest. During this initial hearing, the judge will inquire about the family's ability to afford an attorney. If the family cannot afford legal representation, the judge will appoint a public defender to represent the juvenile for a fee of $35.00.

Probable Cause Determination

  • The judge will review the police report to determine if there was probable cause for the arrest. If the juvenile's attorney believes the report lacks sufficient facts to justify the arrest, they may request a "probable cause" hearing. At this hearing, the arresting officer must testify about the circumstances of the arrest, and the juvenile's attorney may cross-examine the officer and call witnesses. The judge will then decide if the arrest was lawful based on the evidence presented.

Pre-Trial Detention and Release

  • If the judge finds probable cause for the arrest, they will consider the juvenile's prior criminal record, the seriousness of the alleged offense, and any potential threats to public safety when deciding whether to detain the juvenile pending trial or release them to the custody of a parent or guardian. If released, the judge may impose conditions such as electronic monitoring, house arrest, or orders to stay away from the alleged victim.

Pre-Trial Conference

  • Within a week to ten days of the arrest, a pre-trial conference is held in a different section of the court before a new judge. The juvenile will be represented by a different public defender who has received a copy of the police report. At this conference, the juvenile, their attorney, and their parent or guardian will discuss the case and decide whether to plead guilty or proceed to trial.

Trial Process

  • If the juvenile pleads not guilty, the case will be set for trial within 30 days if the juvenile is detained or within 90 days if the juvenile has been released. At trial, the District Attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile committed the alleged crime. The DA will present witnesses and evidence, and the juvenile's attorney may cross-examine these witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. The juvenile has the right to remain silent and is not required to testify.

Adjudication and Disposition

  • After considering all the evidence, the judge will make a decision. If the judge finds that the DA has not proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the juvenile will be released, and the case will be dismissed. If the judge determines that the DA has met the burden of proof, the juvenile will be adjudicated delinquent, meaning they have been found guilty of the offense.