Guidelines for navigating the juvenile justice system |

Guidelines for navigating the juvenile justice system

In everyone’s life, there comes a time when you make a bad choice and there’s a consequence you have to pay. For your child, this might mean coming into contact with the juvenile justice system. Should you find yourself in this system, here are some basic guidelines to make navigating through the process easier. There are three levels of juvenile court – Municipal Court, County Court, and District Court. Municipal Court deals with municipal laws (i.e. traffic tickets, curfews, shoplifting, etc). County Court deals with county laws (i.e. underage drinking and DUI). District Court is the final level of court for a juvenile. This consists of more serious offenses (felony charges, assault, criminal mischief, etc). Each level of court has a different degree of authority and sanctions they can impose; however, each level of juvenile court is designated to act in the best interest of the youth, taking into consideration the offense committed and potential contributing factors to the case. The ultimate goal of the system is to give your child opportunities to develop skills that will keep them out of future trouble. The following are basic rules that relate to all courts:1. Be on time for your scheduled court appearance.2. Dress appropriately. Do not wear a hat in the courtroom. 3. Turn off your cell phone before entering the courtroom.4. Do not talk during court procedures unless you are being addressed by the judge.5. Speak to the judge with respect, recognizing his authority.6. Be prepared for multiple appearances in court. As a parent, you are legally responsible for your child’s actions until they reach the age of 18 years. This makes you a key component in the juvenile justice system. You are expected to be involved with the court until your child’s case is resolved. This could take many forms, but in all instances it requires parents to attend court proceedings and work with court staff as the case progresses. Your role as a parent in the juvenile justice system is similar to your normal parenting role. In some instances, you will need to act as an advocate for your child. In other instances, you will need to be a teacher to make sure your child understands the system and the requirements integral to juvenile court. Finally, you will need to be prepared to play a role in the ongoing requirements of the case, making sure your child complies with all the terms the court has imposed. Should you need assistance through the process, you will find YouthZone available to answer questions and assist you with programs that can strengthen your family. The juvenile justice system does not have to be a scary or negative experience. Your contact with the court can become a positive experience that takes your child on a new course toward making healthier life choices and becoming a more productive citizen. Terry Shanahan is a juvenile justice coordinator at YouthZone.

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