The Maine Juvenile Court Process
If you or your child is 17 years of age or younger and are accused of committing a state, federal crime in York and Cumberland Counties, Maine, then your child are likely to be arrested and summoned to appear before the Juvenile Courts in one of the District Courts in York County or the District Courts in Portland, West Bath, or Bridgton District Courts in Cumberland County. ~ Maine Juvenile Law Attorney, David N. Wood – Maine Juvenile Law Attorney.
The Maine juvenile court system is designed to both adjudicate criminal cases involving children, while protecting your child’s privacy rights, as well as those of any alleged victims. The juvenile system can often be more lenient than the adult courts which prosecute similar crimes and charges. It can, however, also be a more onerous process for child defendants and their families, as there is often much more supervision, probation, monitoring and restrictions involved. A heavy-handed juvenile court punishment can sometimes lead to a child being unnecessarily bogged down in a system against their wishes. It is therefore advisable to consider hiring a top Juvenile criminal lawyer prior to appearing before the Maine Juvenile Courts.
If your son or daughter 17 years old or younger, and is suspected of committing a juvenile offense in Maine, then it is likely that a police officer or detective would want to interview your child in the course of their investigation. Many police departments in the York and Cumberland County areas have divisions within their departments that specialize in juvenile investigations. These divisions—sometimes called “Youth Divisions” or “Special Victims Units”—receive specialized training in working with children and their families, and they always contact a juvenile Community Corrections Officer or “JCCO”.
No matter who contacts you from the police, however, understand this important fact: parents have the virtually unconditional right to be present with their child during all police interactions, questioning, and interrogations. Therefore it is critical that if your child is suspected of committing a crime or a juvenile offense, then you should advise law enforcement that you would like to be present for all interactions with your child. Additionally, prior to speaking with the police, this would be another ripe opportunity for you to consult an experienced juvenile attorney to assist you in dealing with law enforcement, as anything you or your child says to the police can be used in a criminal prosecution against your child.
Bond v. Juvenile Detention
The arrest process in the juvenile court system is very different from the adult process. There are no bonds or bail amounts set by Maine police departments. Either the child is released to the parents on a promise to appear in juvenile court, or the child is detained by the police and brought to a juvenile detention facility until the arraignment, which is held on the next business day. For juveniles arrested in York County, they will be summoned to appear for their arraignment in either the York, Springvale, or Biddeford juvenile courts. In Cumberland County, they will be summonsed to appear in Portland, Bridgton, or West Bath.
Judicial v. Non-Judicial Disposition
Prior to your child’s arraignment, all juvenile cases are reviewed by Juvenile Assistant District Attorneys along with the JCCO’s to determine the specific prosecution track. There are two options here: “judicial” versus a “non-judicial” disposition. Less serious juvenile offenses are designated as “Informal adjustment” and are removed from the courtroom process and turned over to a juvenile probation officer who will work with your child and family, monitor the case, and order an appropriate punishment such as community service, counseling, drug testing and academic deliverables (i.e. no unexcused absences, good grades, etc.).
“Judicial” designations of a Maine juvenile case arise in the following circumstances:
When the charges against your child are more serious in nature;
When the child has a prior record of juvenile charges;
When felony charges are involved;
When charges involve the sale or possession of certain drugs, and firearms; and
When the child is not compliant with the Probation Officer’s recommendations in a non-judicial disposition.
As part of any judicial juvenile case, a Superior Court judge presides over the case, and the child’s criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor enter into plea bargain negotiations. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the matter proceeds to trial.
Confidentiality of Juvenile Records
As mentioned above, all juvenile court cases are strictly confidential. The juvenile courtroom is closed to the public. The court records and police reports are sealed and are not available for public review in either the Clerk’s office or otherwise.
Further, almost all of the juvenile cases handled by our firm do not result in any criminal convictions and allow the children we represent to exit the process without any kind of criminal conviction record whatsoever.
Can my child’s juvenile case be transferred to adult court?
A key concern for many of our juvenile clients and their families is whether their child’s case can be bound over to adult court, which obviously raises the stakes for the child on several levels. First, the penalties and punishments for convictions are much more severe and include jail time, adult probation, and hefty fines, all of which would now be in play. Second, and just as important, once a case is transferred to adult court, all confidentiality of the case is lifted and your child’s identity and charges become part of the public record.
So what triggers a transfer to adult court? Charges for Class A and Class B felonies are reasons the prosecutor may want the child tried as an adult. The juvenile prosecutor also has the power to request the transfer of other charges to adult court. However, there are legal mechanisms we can be invoke to have the case transferred back to juvenile court, a priority of the juvenile. This occurs in a Bind Over Hearing.
My goal is to keep your child’s case in juvenile court at all costs. There are also scenarios where we have successfully requested that cases that have been transferred to adult court be remanded back to juvenile court.
Whether a York or Cumberland County case goes “through the juvenile process or becomes an informal adjustment, it will get transferred at some point to a JCCO who is assigned to the case. Our firm often works closely with these officers to ensure that our juvenile clients are compliant with their probation conditions, and we often are successful in advocating for the early termination of probation. This happens frequently, especially in cases where are juvenile clients are thriving in their family, community, and academic settings.
Contact Us Today:
As explained above, the Maine juvenile court process is very different from the adult court system. It’s complicated and can be overwhelming and confusing. So if you or your child has been charged with a juvenile crime or offense in York or Cumberland, or are summoned to appear in juvenile court in Southern Maine, call an experienced Maine Juvenile Law Attorney at Wood Law Office to learn how we can help you. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ator 207-831-6273.