Juvenile Delinquency


A juvenile delinquency or D petition alleges that a juvenile, a child between the ages of 7 and 16, committed an act that would constitute a crime if committed by an adult.

A juvenile may be arrested and taken into custody by the police just as an adult, and is afforded the same constitutional rights and protections. However, every reasonable effort must be made to contact the juvenile's parents or guardian if such action is taken.

Following the arrest of a juvenile, any of the following may occur:

  • An appearance ticket is issued and the juvenile is released to a parent or guardian pending his or her appearance at Probation
  • The juvenile is taken directly to Family Court provided it is in session
  • If the arresting officer believes it is necessary, the juvenile is questioned either at a judicially approved location, or the juvenile's residence with the consent of a parent or guardian
  • The juvenile is taken to a detention facility if the circumstances of the case so warrant


If the juvenile is detained, the initial appearance should be held no later that 72 hours after the petition is filed or the next day court is in session, whichever is sooner. If the juvenile is not detained, the initial appearance should be held as soon as possible within 10 days after a petition is filed.

Probation Intake and Adjustment: Prior to appearing in Family Court, a probation officer interviews the parties involved, including the individual seeking to have the petition filed, the juvenile accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, and any other interested persons, to determine whether the matter can be settled without filing a petition. Resolving the case in this manner is known as adjustment.

  • If adjustment is not possible, a petition is filed by a presentment agency, which is the office that in Family Court will act on behalf of the county to prosecute juvenile delinquency cases. In New York City, the presentment agency is the Corporation Counsel's Office. Outside of the city, it is generally the County Attorney's Office.
  • Adjustment cannot be used in cases being referred from the Criminal, County, or Supreme Courts, or in cases concerning designated felony acts.


Initial Court Appearance: If the case is referred to Family Court by the probation department, there is an initial court appearance where the juvenile, now officially the respondent, is informed of the allegations set forth in the petition, and advised of his or her rights. If the respondent does not have counsel, the court appoints an Attorney for the Child(law guardian) for the respondent. In addition, a copy of the petition is provided to the respondent and his or her counsel. The case may also be referred to probation for an additional attempt at adjustment.

If the respondent admits the allegations, the judge must ensure that the respondent and the parent are aware of the respondent's rights and the consequences of such an admission. In addition, the judge must order the probation department or another agency to do an investigation and report ("I & R") and set a dispositional hearing date.

If the respondent denies the allegations, a fact-finding hearing is scheduled. If it is determined that the respondent should be remanded to a detention facility pending the hearing and detained for more than 3 days, a probable cause hearing must also be held. However, the judge may instead decide to release the respondent to a parent or guardian, which is also known as "parole," pending the fact-finding hearing.

At any time prior to the finding that the respondent is a juvenile delinquent, the court may with the consent of the parties order an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD). This means that if certain conditions are met within a period of 6 months, the case may be dismissed.

At the fact-finding hearing, the judge must determine if the allegations have been proven based on the evidence presented.

  • If the respondent is in detention, the fact-finding hearing should begin no more than 3 days after the initial appearance unless a probable cause hearing is held.
  • If the respondent is not in detention, the fact-finding hearing should start no more that 60 days after the initial appearance.


If the judge determines that the allegations have been proven, the judge must decide whether to remand or parole the respondent pending a dispositional hearing.

  • The judge must also order the probation department and/or another agency to do an investigation and report, and set the date for a dispositional hearing.
  • The dispositional hearing should be held within 10 days in cases where the respondent is detained. In most other cases, it should be held within 50 days of the fact-finding hearing.


If the judge determines that the allegations have not been proven, the case is dismissed, and if in detention, the respondent must be immediately released.

At the dispositional hearing, the judge must determine whether the respondent requires any supervision, treatment or confinement.

  • The report prepared by the probation department or another agency at the judge's request is presented along with any other relevant information.
  • In addition, if the probation department or presentment agency wants to, it may deliver an advisory statement to the judge.
  • The respondent may also deliver a statement prior to the judge entering a dispositional order.


Once the dispositional hearing has concluded, the judge may:

  • Dismiss the case if the judge determines that the respondent does not need supervision, treatment or confinement
  • Grant an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) for up to 6 months
  • Grant a conditional discharge for up to 1 year
  • Order treatment or confinement
  • Order probation for up to 2 years
  • Place the respondent in a foster home, group home, or other institution, or in the custody of a relative or other suitable guardian, for up to 18 months
  • Order the respondent to make restitution or perform community service
  • In cases of mental illness, mental retardation, or developmental disability, place the respondent with the Commissioner of Social Services or the Commissioner of Mental Health


The judge may also issue an order of protection requiring that the respondent stay away from the petitioner or victim.

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