Juvenile Court Process
Adapted from information provided by the Marion County Juvenile Department
Mission of Juvenile Probation
The mission of probation is to assist in protecting the community from delinquency by establishing accountability for offenses, and utilizing department and community resources to offer opportunities to meet the needs of youth and their families.
When juveniles commit crimes and cause injury, or loss to victims, there are several steps that must occur before the case can be resolved, and the victim can receive restitution.
Step I - Referrals
Criminal activity must be referred to Marion County Juvenile Department by a law enforcement agency.
Step II - Initial Intervention
Police reports are reviewed to determine the level of intervention, which includes diversion programs (community service, Neighbor to Neighbor mediation, counseling classes), assignment to a probation officer or closure if the district attorney’s office determines that guilt cannot be proven in court.
Step III - Probation Officer Assignment
If the case is assigned to a probation officer, an interview is scheduled with the youth and parents, or guardians. The probation officer considers several factors in determining how to handle the case, including amount of restitution, public safety issues, seriousness of the incident, and services the youth and family need to prevent further criminal behavior. At the interview, the youth informs the probation officer whether he/she will admit, deny, or talk to an attorney on the charges.
In Step III, victims are sent a Restitution Form and Victim Impact Statement. If the victim wishes to be involved in the process, the Restitution Form and the Victim Impact Statement need to be completed and returned promptly to the probation officer.
If the youth admits the criminal activity, two things can happen:
- The youth may sign a contract called a Formal Accountability Agreement, which requires the youth to complete specific conditions, including restitution payment to the victim. This does not involve a court appearance by the youth or the victim. Most contracts last from 90-120 days. OR
- The youth goes to court for a preliminary hearing, admits to the criminal charges, and is placed on probation. The Judge orders probation conditions, including payment of restitution and no contact with the victim. Victims will be notified and may appear at this hearing. Juvenile probation can last from six months to five years, or until age 23, depending on the youth’s risk to self, family and community.
If victims have concerns about personal safety at any time, before or after resolution of the case, victims need to notify the police or the probation officer immediately.
If the youth denies the criminal activity, the youth can request an attorney, and the matter will be set for a court hearing. At this point, the juvenile court process can become lengthy. If the victim wants to be involved with the court process, it is important for the victim to maintain contact with the probation officer. There may be a series of court hearings before final resolution of the matter. Any time victims come to court hearings they need to check in at the front reception desk.
Victim Impact Statement
Written information from the victim or victim’s parents can be submitted to the probation officer, and it will be considered in determining probation conditions. Written information from the victim may also be shared by the probation officer with the youth to help create empathy for the victim in an effort to prevent further criminal activity. If the case goes to court, the victim has an opportunity to make a verbal or written statement in court to the Judge. Prior to the hearing, the probation officer needs to know that the victim would like to make a statement in court.
The court can order restitution for physical injury, counseling, and for property taken, damaged or destroyed by juvenile offenders.
- Victims must document the actual loss and furnish written documentation to the
- When restitution is ordered in juvenile court, the youth is expected to pay, not the parent.
- If a restitution claim is disputed, a restitution hearing can be set. The judge will review all information and make a decision regarding the amount of restitution.
When Restitution is Ordered
As the youth earns the restitution, it will be sent to the State of Oregon and the state will disburse the money to the victim. For payment to reach the victim, it is important that the victim provide the probation officer with any change in address. Usually the youth’s probation term will not be closed until all restitution is paid, or until five years have elapsed. At that time a civil judgment against the youth may be ordered if there is any unpaid restitution.
Other Important Information
- Due to confidentiality laws, the probation officer is limited in the information that can be shared with the victim; however, the victim is entitled to know the final disposition and conditions of probation.
- All juvenile court hearings are open to the public.
- Sometimes, there are not enough resources available to hold the youth as accountable as the probation officer and the victim would like.