- What Is a "PINS"?
- What is the Diversion Program?
- Is the Child Represented by an Attorney?
- How Does a PINS Court Case Begin?
- Who Presents the Case Against the Child?
- If the Child is Beyond the Control of His or Her Parents can the Court Hold the Child in a Secure Facility?
- What Happens at the Fact-finding Hearing?
- What Happens at the Dispositional Hearing?
- What Happens If the Child Disobeys the Dispositional Order?
A child under the age of 18 who does not attend school, or behaves in a way that is dangerous or out of control, or often disobeys his or her parents, guardians or other authorities, may be found to be a Person In Need of Supervision or "PINS". All PINS proceedings are heard in Family Court. There is a possibility that the PINS proceeding could be settled outside of court through a Diversion Program that is run by the Department of Probation.
Diversion is a program run through the Probation Department to provide information and assistance to families dealing with children with PINS-like behavior. All families who request PINS services will first work with the Diversion Program and will only be referred to Family Court if all other efforts have been exhausted.
A private attorney may be hired to represent the child or the court will assign an attorney. The child's attorney is called a " law guardian" or simply the “Attorney for the Child”.
A PINS petition may be filed in Family Court by a parent or other person legally responsible for the care of the child, by a peace officer or police officer, by a person who has been injured by a child, or by a school or other authorized agency. The PINS petition contains a description of the child's behavior and asks the court to find that the child is in need of supervision. The petition and a summons must be given to the child and his or her parent, directing them to appear in Family Court on a specific date.
There are no filing fees in Family Court.
The complaining party presents the case at the hearing by testifying about the child's behavior. In some counties, the County Attorney’s Office will serve as the presentment agency. Depending upon the county and the circumstances, sometimes the judge assigns a lawyer to represent the complaining party at the hearing, or the complaining party may hire an attorney.
If the Child is Beyond the Control of His or Her Parents can the Court Hold the Child in a Secure Facility?
If the court finds that the PINS child should not be released to the custody of his or her parent or guardian while waiting for the fact-finding hearing, the court cannot hold the child in a secure facility. If it appears that a PINS respondent might fail to appear for a scheduled court date, or is at risk of committing an act which would be a crime if committed by an adult, the court may place the child with a relative or other person willing and able to take responsibility for the child or hold the child in a non-secure facility.
In a PINS case, the trial is called a "fact-finding hearing". The parties may testify and present witnesses and evidence.
If the judge decides that the child committed the acts described in the petition, the judge sets a date for a "dispositional hearing". The court may order the Probation Department to prepare a report concerning the child's general behavior, home life and school attendance and behavior, and may order any other evaluation or report that would assist the Court in determining what would be in a child’s best interests.
At the dispositional hearing, information is presented to the court to help the judge decide whether the child is a person in need of supervision - a PINS. Witnesses with information about the child testify and present evidence.
If the judge decides that the child does not need supervision or treatment, the judge may dismiss the case. If the child does need supervision or treatment, the judge can place the child into a foster group home or a social service facility for up to 18 months, send the child home under the supervision of a probation officer, or suspend judgment on the condition that the child abide by certain terms. If the child is at least 10 years old, the judge can order the child to pay for any damage done to someone's property, or require the child to perform community service. The judge can also put the case "on hold" for up to 6 months to decide whether the case should be dismissed, or may discharge the child with a warning. The judge then signs a "dispositional order".
If the court finds that the child is not obeying the terms of the court's order, the probation officer or placement agency may file a violation petition, and a new dispositional hearing may be held. If the violation is proven, the court may change its order to any order it could have issued at the original dispositional hearing.