The juvenile arraignment process in Denver is where minors get officially charged with a crime. It is substantially different from the arraignment process for adults. Many juvenile cases do not go through the arraignment process. These cases get resolved informally, instead.
What is arraignment?
Arraignment is a court hearing. It is where the judge tells a suspect that he or she is being charged with a crime. It turns someone from a criminal suspect into a criminal defendant.
In Colorado, the arraignment is usually your first court appearance. It is the culmination of the investigation process. The steps in this process are:
- Evidence gathering,
- Booking, and
In this way, arraignment signals a shift in the criminal justice process. Before arraignment, you deal with the police, whose job is to gather evidence. After arraignment, you deal with prosecutors, whose job it is to present that evidence.
How is arraignment different in the juvenile system?
The juvenile system is for defendants between 10 and 18 years old. In the juvenile system, arraignment is different in several ways:
- It is not a necessary step, as many juvenile cases are resolved without an arraignment,
- The young suspect can be released back to their parents, beforehand, and
- The juvenile court has to determine whether to transfer the case to adult court, or exercise its jurisdiction over the case.
Similarly to the criminal justice system, though, juvenile arraignment has to happen soon after an arrest. In Denver, it often happens without 48 hours.
What happens at a juvenile arraignment?
In Denver, several things can happen at a juvenile arraignment, also known as a detention hearing.
The juvenile court judge has to decide whether to send the case to adult court. This would require them to relinquish their jurisdiction over the case. This decision revolves on numerous factors, including:
- The nature of the alleged offense (Class 1 felonies and Class 2 felonies can be transferred to adult court),
- The age of the child,
- Prior offenses by the child, and
- Whether the district attorney and the defense lawyer agree that a transfer is in the child's interests.
This decision is made at a later hearing, called a fitness hearing.
The juvenile court judge also has to determine if there is probable cause to believe that a crime occurred. This is similar to the standard procedure in an adult arraignment.
If there is probable cause, the district attorney can elect pursue charges. A trial date is set, known as an adjudication, and preliminary hearings are scheduled. The prosecutor often has several days to formally file the charges against the juvenile.
The juvenile court judge can then set bail. If the judge thinks the juvenile defendant is a threat to themselves or others, they can deny bail.
Throughout this process, the juvenile defendant is represented by a lawyer or a guardian ad litem. These people can represent a juvenile and speak for the child's interests.
Many juvenile cases are resolved informally without going through arraignment
Many juvenile cases do not go through arraignment. Instead, they are resolved before the arraignment process begins.
After a juvenile is detained, they are temporarily held while their legal guardian is notified. The local intake screener decides whether to put the juvenile in temporary custody or release them to their parents or guardian. Suspects are often released to their parents. They are often only held in custody for their own safety and welfare.
If the juvenile was arrested for a felony offense, though, law enforcement can demand they be held in custody and not released.
If the juvenile is released to their parents, the intake screener can put restrictions on their release. In some cases, the only restriction is a written promise to appear in court at their detention hearing. In other cases, the restrictions are stricter. This release can end the juvenile process.
In cases where a detention hearing is set, the hearing has to happen within 48 hours if the juvenile is in temporary custody. In many cases, the district attorney will ask to informally resolve the issue. Informal resolutions typically include:
- Payment of restitution, and
- Community service.
The criminal charges are then dropped.
Juvenile defendants who have had a case informally resolved in the past year are unlikely to be eligible for this process.