The Juvenile Division handles the juvenile cases in Hamilton County. This can include cases where a child commits an offense in Hamilton County or a child who is a resident of Hamilton County commits an offense in another county in Indiana. Juvenile cases are handled in both Hamilton Circuit Court and Hamilton Superior Court 1. The Juvenile Court has jurisdiction of offenses that were committed by a child who is under the age of eighteen (18) at the time of the offense, but the Court may continue jurisdiction over the Juvenile until the child reaches the age of twenty-one (21). The purpose of the juvenile system in our state is to ensure that children within the system are treated as persons in need of care, protection, treatment and rehabilitation as well as protecting the public by enforcing the legal obligations that children have to society and society has to children. Rehabilitation is the main crux of the juvenile justice system, trying to ensure that children in the system are given all the tools necessary in order to become a productive adult citizen in our communities.
Offenses that are handled in Juvenile Delinquency Court:
Juvenile cases can include both status and delinquent offenses. Status offenses are offenses where the child needs care, treatment, or rehabilitation that the child is not receiving, is unlikely to accept voluntarily. and is unlikely to be accepted without the coercive intervention of the court. Status offenses include: Leaving Home without the Permission of a Parent (“runaway”), Truancy, Habitual Disobedience of a Parent (“incorrigibility”), Curfew Violations, and certain alcohol and firework offenses. In comparison, delinquent offenses are those acts that would be a crime if committed by an adult.
Offenses that the Juvenile Delinquency Court does NOT handle:
The Juvenile court does not have jurisdiction over ordinance violations or infractions. There are also some times when a Court, upon the Prosecutor’s motion will waive jurisdiction from the Juvenile Court to a Court having adult jurisdiction. These situations are outlined in Indiana Code 31-30-3. Lastly, there are some offenses, where if the child is sixteen (16) or older when the offense is committed, that are handled in adult Court; the Juvenile Court does not have jurisdiction over these cases. These offenses are laid out in Indiana Code 31-30-1-4, and include:
1. Attempted Murder
5. Criminal Deviate Conduct
6. Robbery while Armed with a Deadly Weapon
7. Robbery Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury
9. Carrying a Handgun without a License if charged as a felony
10. Children and Firearms if charged as a felony
Process once the Prosecutor’s Office receives a Report:
Once a report is submitted to our office, the assigned Deputy Prosecutor will screen that case to see if probable cause exists. From there, our office will forward the report to the Hamilton County Juvenile Probation Department, and they will contact the parent(s), guardian(s), or custodian(s) of the child to schedule a Preliminary Inquiry. This is an informal investigation into the facts and circumstances reported to the Court and can include information on the child’s background, current status and school performance. After this meeting, the Probation Officer will prepare and send a report to our office with a recommendation of how this matter should be handled. Ultimately, it is the prosecutor’s decision whether to follow the recommendation of the Probation Department or not. This process can take some time to complete. At that point, the State may choose (as an option) to file a delinquency petition (charges) against the child. If charges are filed, you will receive a copy of such along with a summons to appear in Juvenile Court.
Parties to a Juvenile Delinquency Case:
The parties to a juvenile delinquency proceeding are (1) the child; (2) the child’s parent(s), guardian(s) or custodian(s); and (3) the Prosecuting Attorney. Juvenile matters are confidential, and therefore we are not allowed to discuss them with anyone other than those two parties noted above.
A Juvenile’s Rights in a Delinquency Matter:
1. To know of the nature of the allegations against him/her;
2. To be represented by counsel;
3. To confront all witnesses against him/her;
4. To cross-examine witnesses;
5. To obtain witnesses or tangible evidence by compulsory process;
6. To introduce evidence on his/her own behalf;
7. To refrain from testifying against himself/herself and the right to remain silent;
8. To have the State prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he/she committed the acts charged.
Under Indiana Code 31-32-2-6, a child may not be considered a criminal as the result of an adjudication in a juvenile court, nor may an adjudication in juvenile court be considered a conviction of a crime.
Dispositional Alternatives for Juveniles:
Upon a finding of delinquency (adjudication) by the Juvenile Court, the Court has the following dispositional alternatives, as noted in Indiana Code 31-37-19:
• Order supervision of the child by the probation department;
• Order the child to receive outpatient treatment and/or counseling;
• Remove the child from the child’s home and place him/her in another home or shelter care facility;
• Award wardship to a person or shelter care facility;
• Partially or completely emancipate the child
• Order the child or child’s parent(s), guardian(s), or custodian(s) to receive family services;
• Order a person who is a party to refrain from direct or indirect contact with the child;
• Invalidate the child’s driver’s license or permit for a period of time;
• Order the child to pay restitution;
• Order the child to perform community restitution or service;
• Award wardship to the Department of Correction for housing in a correctional facility for children or a community based correctional facility for children;
• Order confinement in a juvenile detention facility;
• Place the child in a secure private facility for children licensed under the law of a state.
• Order a person who is a respondent in a proceeding under Indiana Code 34-26-5 to refrain from direct or indirect contact with the child; and
• Order participation by parent(s), guardian(s), or custodian(s) in program of care, treatment or rehabilitation for the child.
Should you have any further questions, please look first at the Office's Frequently Asked Questions. If there are any further questions, please contact our office at (317) 776-8595.
Other Helpful Links
The Youth Law T.E.A.M. of Indiana publishes a guide for parents to the Juvenile Justice System.