If your child has been charged with a criminal offense, then you might be worried sick about how the outcome of that charge will affect his or her future. Although juvenile delinquency matters are quite serious, and some offenses committed as a child can even involve a waiver into the adult criminal justice system, there’s a high likelihood that you and your child are going to get through this trying time. One way to reassure yourself is to familiarize yourself with the delinquency process and thereafter plan a strong delinquency defense.

Most people who find themselves involved in the juvenile justice system find themselves most concerned about the potential penalties their child may face. Unlike in adult court, those who are deemed juvenile delinquents are not subject to a sentencing hearing. Instead, an individual will be subjected to a dispositional hearing if he or she is found to have committed a juvenile offense.

The purpose of this hearing is to find the least restrictive punishment possible for the youth given the facts at hand. To find that arrangement, the court requires a pre-dispositional investigation to be filed after consultation with you, your child, and the probation department. When creating the report, other facts will be taken into consideration, such as the youth’s behavior, any history of prior offenses, and a close analysis of the facts surrounding the offense in question. The judge will then consider recommendations contained within that report and issue an order with regard to how, exactly, the child will be penalized.

Dispositional hearings provide you and your child with a lot of options. For example, you might be able to negotiate a deferred disposition agreement where your child agrees to participate in certain programs for a period of six to 12 months. If successfully completed, then the judgment finding the child to be a delinquent is set aside. An informal adjustment agreement is similar, but is a sort of pre-trial diversion program that can lead to dismissed charges if completed successfully.

This is, of course, just a very brief look at what is an otherwise enormously complicated legal process. But you shouldn’t let that scare you. Instead, you should know that you can take matters into your own hands and aggressively fight for an outcome that protects your child and his or her future. Attorneys who are experienced with juvenile delinquency cases stand ready to assist in that fight.