Lynchburg Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court: Delinquency
The content of this page was provided by the Lynchburg Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court and has been posted on Virginia's Judicial System Web site as a courtesy to the Lynchburg Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
A delinquent child is one who committed a delinquent act prior to his/her 18th birthday.
A delinquent act means any act designated as a crime under Virginia Law or Lynchburg city ordinance.
A crime may be a:
- felony: a crime punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year; or a
- misdemeanor: all criminal offenses except felonies.
A person who wants the court to consider any delinquent act alleged to have been committed by a juvenile must file a petition with an Intake Officer of the Court Service Unit. If an Intake Officer refuses to authorize a petition relating to an offense which would be a Class 1 misdemeanor or felony if committed by an adult, the complainant may apply to the magistrate for a warrant for the juvenile.
After the petition is filed, the juvenile and the parent(s)/guardian are notified to come to court so they can be told of the trial (adjudicatory hearing) date and time. The juvenile will also be told of his/her right to have a lawyer represent him/her. If the juvenile and his parent(s)/guardian cannot afford a lawyer, one can be appointed for him/her by the court if the juvenile or parent wants one or if the judge decides that the interests of justice require that the juvenile be represented by counsel. If court-appointed counsel is requested, financial forms showing indigency must be filled out with the help of the clerk's office or court service unit or judge.
A juvenile may be taken into custody if he/she commits a delinquent act in a police officer's presence, or if the police officer believes that he/she committed a felony, or if a judge, intake officer or clerk (when authorized by a judge) issues a detention order requiring an arresting officer to take a juvenile into custody.
If a juvenile is taken into custody and is not immediately released to a parent or guardian by an intake officer or magistrate, the juvenile is held in custody. He/she may be placed in the Detention Home (a secure, locked facility) or in Shelter Care (physically unrestricted facility at Crossroads House or in temporary foster care with Lynchburg Div. of Social Services) until being brought before a judge for a detention or shelter care hearing. This hearing usually must occur within 72 hours of taking the juvenile into custody.
The initial detention hearing will be in the courtroom for the parents and the judge, and lawyers, if any, and by videophone for the detained juvenile. The juvenile has the right to a lawyer to represent him/her and a determination will be made as to whether the parents will retain a lawyer or request that the court appoint an attorney. If court-appointed counsel is requested, financial forms showing indigency must be filled out with the help of the clerk's office or court service unit.
In considering whether continued detention is necessary for a juvenile, the juvenile must be charged with committing an act which would be a Class I misdemeanor or a felony if committed by an adult. The judge must also consider the seriousness of the current offense, prior offenses, any aggravating or mitigating circumstances, and whether the juvenile's release would constitute an unreasonable danger to the person or property of others or constitute and an unreasonable risk of serious harm to the juvenile's life or health.
If released to a parent/guardian, the court may require that the juvenile be on Outreach Detention and follow strict rules, be on electronic monitoring, post a bail bond, or have definite restrictions placed on him/her.
When a juvenile is 14 years or older and is accused of a felony, he/she may by transferred or certified to the Circuit Court where the juvenile may be tried as an adult.
Certification to Circuit Court occurs when a juvenile is charged with certain serious felonies such as murder or aggravated malicious wounding. A hearing is held at this court for the judge to decide if there is probable cause to believe the juvenile committed the act of which he is accused. If probable cause is found, the juvenile is certified to the Circuit Court.
Certification to Circuit Court may also occur if a juvenile is accused of certain other serious felonies such as malicious wounding, robbery, carjacking, or rape. The Commonwealth's Attorney decides whether to file papers with this court asking that the case be certified to the Circuit Court. After notice to the juvenile and to the parent/guardian, a hearing is held at this court to decide if there is probable cause to believe the juvenile committed the act of which he is accused. If probable cause is found, the juvenile is certified to the Circuit Court.
Transfer to Circuit Court may be requested by the Commonwealth's Attorney for some other felonies. The Commonwealth's Attorney decides whether to file papers with this court asking that the case be transferred to the Circuit Court. After notice to the juvenile and to the parent/guardian, a hearing is held at this court to decide if there is probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed the act of which he is accused, and to consider the juvenile's history and to determine whether the juvenile is a proper person to remain within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
Trial (Adjudicatory Hearing) for All Cases of Delinquency Not Certified or Transferred to Circuit Court
All cases are tried and decided by a judge in this court. There is no jury trial in this court. A case must be transferred, certified or appealed to Circuit Court to obtain a jury trial.
Juveniles accused of delinquent acts have the following rights at the trial:
- the right to be represented by a lawyer to the extent provided by law;
- the right to have witnesses to appear on his/her behalf;
- the right to subpoena (to require to come to court) witnesses to appear;
- the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses testifying against them (accusers);
- the right against self-incrimination. (A person may choose to be silent and then cannot be required to answer questions or make statements tending to show guilt and have them used against him or her.)
Guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If the juvenile is found not guilty, the case is dismissed. If the juvenile is found guilty, the judge may decide the disposition of the case at the same hearing , or may require a background report before determining what corrective measures to take with the juvenile.
There is a wide range of alternatives to choose from in selecting a disposition for delinquent juveniles. The judge's choice depends greatly upon the individual's prior record, social history, physical and mental condition, environmental circumstances at home, the facts and circumstances of the acts for which the juvenile was found guilty, the family circumstances, and the choices available in Lynchburg.
Some of the choices, singularly or in combination, include:
- restitution or reparation to the victim;
- a fine of up to $500;
- suspension or restricted use of a driver's license;
- public service;
- placement at either SPARC House ( for girls) or OPPORTUNITY House (for boys) for completion of their residential program;
- commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice for an indeterminate period of time if the juvenile is over 10 years of age and if the delinquent act would be a felony if committed by an adult; or would be a Class 1 misdemeanor if committed by an adult and the juvenile has previously been found guilty of an act that would be a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if committed by an adult;
- transfer custody to a relative, child welfare agency or local board of social services;
- placement in the Post-Disposition Program at the Lynchburg Detention Home; or
- commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice for a term not to exceed seven years or the juvenile's 21st birthday, whichever first occurs, if the delinquent act is one which would be a felony if committed by an adult and if the juvenile's past delinquent record meets the statute's requirements.
Any juvenile found guilty of a delinquent act may appeal the decision to the Circuit Court. Appeals must be noted by the juvenile or his/her attorney with the clerk of this court within 10 days of the court's final order. Cases appealed to the Circuit Court are reheard de novo (completely new, from the beginning). In hearing cases on appeal from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, the Circuit Court has the same power and authority as does the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.