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Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System


Are Hearings open to the public?

Generally they are not open to the public, unless the child was 14 years of age or older at the time of the alleged conduct and the alleged conduct would be considered a felony if committed by an adult.

What is the proper attire for court?

It is recommended that people dress as formal as possible for Court.

Do I need to hire a lawyer for court?

A juvenile is entitled to representation by legal counsel at all stages of any proceedings and if he or she is without financial resources or otherwise unable to hire counsel, to have the Court provide counsel for him/her.

What is an Adjudication hearing?

The portion of a hearing wherein the Judge or Master determines if the juvenile committed the crime or any portion of the crime with which he or she is charged.

What are the consequences of being adjudicated delinquent?

Click here for a listing of collateral consequences of contact with the PA Juvenile Justice System

What is a Disposition hearing?

After finding that a juvenile is found delinquent on the acts alleged against him/her, the Court determines what form of treatment, supervision or rehabilitation the juvenile is in need of.

What is a Consent Decree?

An order of the Court which suspends the delinquent proceedings against the juvenile and places the youth under voluntary supervision in his or her home and community, under terms and conditions established by the probation department and agreed to by all parties affected.

What is an Informal Adjustment?

An administratively enacted supervision, typically six months in length and usually has the least amount of conditions, but can be extended for three additional months.

What happens when a juvenile is referred to the Juvenile Probation Department?

After an Intake meeting with a probation officer, the juvenile and their guardian there are several directions a case could go. The determination is based largely on the cooperation or lack thereof by the juvenile.

May a juvenile be fingerprinted or photographed?

Yes, this is standard procedure.

What happens when a juvenile is detained?

A juvenile is taken into custody in order to protect the person or property of others; he/she is considered a threat to themselves; or because the juvenile may abscond.

What is decided at the detention hearing?

If the juvenile shall remain in detention due to their risk to the community or themselves

Can parents be held responsible for any payments?

Yes, the Court may determine the appropriateness of guardians being responsible for payments.

How are juvenile records expunged?

In order to expunge or destroy records a motion must be initiated, which is to take the form of a proposed Court Order, and then approved by the Court.