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In Arizona, the Superior Court exercises jurisdiction over juveniles 8 to 17 years old who have been processed through the juvenile system for either delinquent or incorrigible acts. Children under the age of eight are considered dependent regardless of the nature of the act committed and individuals 18 and older are considered adults (A.R.S. Section 8-201.13).
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A juvenile under the age of eighteen commits a delinquent act if that same act committed by an adult would be a criminal offense.
An incorrigible juvenile commits an offense that would not be considered a crime if he or she were an adult and are often referred to as status offenses. Typically, incorrigible juveniles are juveniles who are habitually truant from school, have run away from home, or violated curfew. In addition, juveniles who refuse to obey the reasonable and proper direction of their parents or guardians can be considered incorrigible.
Juveniles formally enter the court system when a referral is made. Referrals are submitted to the Juvenile Court and allege the juvenile committed a delinquent or incorrigible act. Referrals can be made by police, parents, school officials, probation officers, other agencies, or individuals requesting the juvenile court to assume jurisdiction over the juveniles’ conduct. Referrals can be “paper referrals” issued as citations or police reports, or “physical referrals” where the juvenile is arrested by law enforcement. Multiple offenses can be included in a referral.
Diversion is an alternative available to some juveniles to avoid formal prosecution. The County Attorney has sole discretion to divert prosecution and determine which offenses are eligible for diversion (A.R.S. Section 8-321). Through diversion, a juvenile is given the opportunity to admit to the allegations contained in the referral and receive a consequence in lieu of the formal court process. Consequences can include:
If the juvenile successfully completes diversion, his/her obligation to the state (and victim when applicable) is satisfied and a petition is not filed. The outcome cannot be used against the juvenile in any further proceedings and there is no adjudication of incorrigibility or delinquency. If the juvenile is non-compliant with diversion, the referral is sent back to the County Attorney who may then decide to file a petition.
Only the County Attorney has the authority to send a juvenile case to court by filing a petition. A petition initiates the formal court hearing process by requiring the juvenile and his/her parent/guardian to attend formal hearings before the court to answer the allegations located in the petition. The County Attorney determines which allegations to include in the petition based on the evidence and elements of the alleged act. If a juvenile is taken to detention and held, the filing of a petition must occur within 24 hours of admission to the detention facility (Rule 24B in the Arizona Rules of the Court). When the juvenile is not detained, the petition must be filed within 45 days of receipt of the referral unless time is waived an additional 30 days for further investigation.
Petitions or charges within a petition can be dismissed by a judge. A dismissal means further consideration or hearings regarding the petition or charge are terminated and no further formal action is taken. Dismissals can be either with prejudice (cannot be re-filed) or without prejudice (can be re-filed). Dismissal of a petition can occur during the advisory or adjudication stages. It is possible for a petition to be dismissed due to a lack of evidence during either of these hearings.
Similarly, a juvenile could have more than one charge/count pending. In this situation, the juvenile's defense attorney could initiate a process with the County Attorney resulting in dismissal of one charge while receiving a disposition (i.e., formal reprimand, Standard Probation, Juvenile Intensive Probation Supervision, or commitment to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections) on another charge. Dismissals can also take place as an agreement in court to extend unfulfilled diversion conditions.
Upon completion of the conditions, the dismissal stops any further prosecution. Cases can also be dismissed when transferred to another jurisdiction prior to adjudication or by the County Attorney filing a motion to dismiss due to a victim’s request, lack of cooperation or availability of witnesses, or unreasonable likelihood of adjudication.
The core tenets of juvenile probation are:
Probation Officers meet with juveniles and their families to perform assessments and research their family and social history.
Probation Officers are responsible for making regular visits to juveniles’ homes to make sure that they are following conditions set by the Court. They also work closely with each juvenile and their family to change or eliminate behavioral issues. If a juvenile does not comply with his or her court order, the Probation Officer must then provide recommendations to the judge for alternate sentencing or treatment. Each juvenile on probation receives a case plan addressing their individual risks and needs.
After adjudication, a juvenile may receive a disposition to Standard Probation. Standard Probation allows the juvenile to remain in the community contingent on compliance with court-ordered conditions, which include such things as:
Special conditions can also be ordered with cases that may involve gangs, mental health, or sexually maladaptive behaviors. Throughout a probation term, the probation and/or surveillance officer monitors the juvenile's compliance and case plan progress. The probation officer works closely with the juvenile, family members, and members of the community such as teachers, victims, treatment providers, and others involved in the life of the juvenile. If the juvenile does not comply with the conditions and/or continues violating the law, the probation officer may address the violations using graduated responses or refer the juvenile back to court. The court may then impose restrictions, including detention, placement on JIPS, or commitment to ADJC.
For juveniles in need of a higher level of supervision and more structured programming, a judge can order a youth to JIPS. The JIPS program was designed with the intention of providing an alternative to commitment to out-of-home placement and ADJC. JIPS is a less costly alternative to out-of-home placement and ADJC, yet provides a greater level of supervision than Standard Probation. JIPS differs from Standard Probation in the increased frequency of face-to-face contact between the juvenile and the probation and/or surveillance officer, the requirement to actively participate in 32 hours of structured activities per week, liberty restrictions concerning unsupervised time out of the home, and random drug testing. JIPS probation and surveillance officers also have lower caseload ratios than standard due to the increased contact requirements.
Disposition of a juvenile to the ADJC is governed by statute and the Arizona Code of Judicial Administration Part 6, Chapter 3, Section 6-304. ARS Section 8-342 (A) provides “A child under the age of fourteen years shall not be committed to the department of juvenile corrections nor shall a dependent or incorrigible child be awarded to the department of juvenile corrections.” ARS Section 8-246(C), as amended, mandates:
The primary purpose of the commitment guidelines is to define factors the court must consider, in addition to other relevant facts, when committing youth to the care and custody of the ADJC. The legislative intent was to reserve commitment to juveniles whom the court believes need placement in a secure care facility for the protection of the public and who are unsuitable for JIPS.
To qualify for the destruction of juvenile records, as a minimum you must be at least 18 years of age, not convicted of a felony offense and all fines and restitution have been paid in full.
Note: An order for the destruction of records only applies to your juvenile court file. This order has no jurisdiction over any law enforcement arrest records.