Case Filed In Court
When the District Attorney files charges against a child, a probation officer initiates a court investigation. A conference is held with the parents, guardians and others involved with the child. After a detailed assessment of the child's behavior, home, school and social relationships, the Officer writes a predisposition report that is considered by the judge at the time of the disposition hearing. Several hearings take place prior to the disposition hearing.
Once charges have been filed against the child, the case is set for a first appearance in court. The child is expected to appear on the specified date with his parents and an attorney. The law requires that the child be represented by an attorney as cited in the Texas Family Code §51.10. If the parents have not retained an attorney, but are making an honest effort to retain one, the District Attorney will likely reset the case for a period of time in order for the parents to retain an attorney. If the family cannot afford to retain an attorney the court may appoint one after the family completes the required financial packet [PDF] and provides all of the required supportive documentation.
Two or three weeks following the first appearance the case is set for an announcement hearing. During this appearance the defense attorney and the prosecutor will discuss the state's recommendation to the court. If an agreement between two sides is reached, a plea of true will be entered and a hearing will be set before the court within two weeks. Several announcement hearings may be conducted before reaching an agreement. If an agreement can not be made the hearing will be set for a trial, before either the judge or a jury.
In a court proceeding called an adjudication hearing, the juvenile accused of the crime, the juvenile's family and attorney appear before a judge or jury that will decide if the juvenile committed a delinquent act or conduct indicating a need for supervision. If a court finds that a person has engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision, then the court must set a date and time for a separate disposition hearing.
At the disposition hearing, the court may place the juvenile on varying levels of probation, place the juvenile in a private, state or local residential facility.
For certain serious offenses, the juvenile court also has the option of allowing the use of determinate sentencing. The determinate sentencing law allows a juvenile to be confined up to forty years. The first part of the sentence would be served in a Texas Juvenile Justice Division facility, followed by an optional court transfer to state prison. At the disposition hearing, the juvenile court may order the child and/or his parents or guardians to perform community service and/or pay restitution to the victim. Victims have the right to provide pertinent information about the impact of the offense on the victim and the victim's family.
At any time during placement, a juvenile may be eligible for release. This may be as a result of the juvenile's compliance with all court-ordered conditions, or an administrative decision to release the juvenile. Upon request, victims have the right to be notified when the juvenile is being considered for release.
A juvenile has the right to appeal court decisions. The victim has the right to be informed of the status of the appeal process in the event that the juvenile determines to exercise that right.
If a victim is subjected to threats or intimidation, contact your local law enforcement agency.