How Juvenile Criminal Cases Work
Juveniles are defined as persons between the age of 10 and 18. If a child under the age of 10 commits a crime, he or she may be referred to the Denver Department of Human Services for further intervention.
The juvenile justice process differs from the adult criminal justice process in a number of ways. While the adult criminal justice system is designed to be punitive, the juvenile process focuses on the best interest of the child.
Juveniles charged with a crime are prosecuted in Juvenile Court, a division of the Denver District Court.
Additionally, juvenile cases are typically decided in a matter of weeks, as opposed to months or even years in adult court.
Juvenile Courtroom Locations
Juvenile hearings and proceedings are held in the juvenile courtrooms located on the second floor of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in downtown Denver, 520 W. Colfax Avenue.
To find out which courtroom your case or proceeding is being heard, you can contact the Juvenile Court Clerk’s Office in Room 125 at the Courthouse, or by calling 720-337-0570.
Juveniles who are arrested in Denver are transported to the Juvenile Services Center (JSC) located at 303 W. Colfax Ave. At the JSC, staff conducts an initial review of the juvenile and contacts the parents or guardians to inform them of the arrest. Based upon the staff review, the nature of the crime, and the juvenile’s history, a determination will be made as to whether a juvenile will be released on Pre-Trial Release (PTR) or taken
to detention. The juvenile detention facility in Denver is the Gilliam Youth Services Center (GYSC) located at 2844 Downing Street.
Juveniles who are being held in custody at the Gilliam Youth Services Center (GYSC) are entitled to a detention hearing. This hearing is typically held within two business days after arrest. At this hearing, a judge or magistrate will make a determination as to whether probable cause for arrest exists and will also make a decision about bond.
Parents of the juvenile are notified of the hearing and are requested to attend. If a parent is unable to attend, the judge or magistrate will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). This person is appointed to represent the best interests of the child and will stand in for the parent. The Public Defender is also present at detention hearings and is available to take applications to represent a juvenile. Victims or their family members may also be present at the detention hearing, and can get more information about the case by calling the Denver DA's Office—Juvenile Unit, at 720-913-9012.
The judge or magistrate will make a decision about bond for the juvenile. There are some cases in which a juvenile is held at Gilliam without bond, such as when there is reason to believe the juvenile may be a danger to themselves or others. The judge may release the juvenile on Pre-Trial Release (PTR) under the supervision of staff. In most cases, either a bond amount is set or the juvenile is granted a PTR.
If the juvenile is granted a Pre-Trial Release, he or she will be required to follow certain rules and may be placed on an electronic home monitor (EHM) to ensure he or she is abiding by curfew.
The District Attorney's Office has approximately three business days from the time of the detention hearing to file charges; otherwise the case is dismissed. Charges may still be filed at a later date if new information or evidence is developed.
Return of Filing
This is a hearing where the juvenile is advised of the charges filed against him or her. If no charges are filed, the case is dismissed. If charges are filed the juvenile is served with a Petition listing the charges and a preliminary hearing or a status hearing is scheduled.
Certain charges entitle a juvenile to a preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, the District Attorney must provide a judge with enough evidence for the court to make a determination that there is probable cause to bind the case over as charged. These hearings are often waived by the juvenile, which keeps the plea negotiation process open. The case may also be set for trial.
A status hearing is a hearing in which the attorney for the juvenile and the District Attorney may discuss possible resolutions, or the juvenile may plead guilty or not guilty, or the case may be set for trial.
Most of the juvenile criminal trials that take place in Denver are trials to the court (also known as “trial to the bench”). This means that the case is heard by a judge rather than a jury.
A trial to the court must be held within 60 days after the juvenile's plea of not guilty. Juveniles are entitled to a trial by jury in certain felony cases. For these cases, a trial must occur within six months after a not guilty plea.
Juveniles Tried As Adults
In rare felony criminal cases, a juvenile is charged as an adult, and faces adult criminal penalties, through one of two processes: “Direct file,” in which adult charges are filed directly in District Court, or “transfer,” in which charges are filed in Juvenile Court but a motion is filed by the District Attorney to request a transfer of the case to District Court.
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