Administration for Children's Services311Search all NYC.gov websites

Juvenile Justice Process Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Juvenile Delinquent, a Juvenile Offender, and an Adolescent Offender?

A Juvenile Delinquent (JD) is a youth between ages 7 and 18 who is charged with committing an offense that if committed by an adult, would be a crime. A Juvenile Offender (JO) is a youth who is charged with committing a serious felony while the youth was 13, 14, or 15 years old. Similarly, an Adolescent Offender (AO) is a youth who is charged with committing a felony offense while the youth was 16 or 17 years old. Both JO and AO youth are subject to more serious penalties than a JD youth.

All juvenile delinquency cases are heard in Family Court, while all JO and AO cases proceed through specialized parts within each borough's Supreme Court, which are known as "Youth Parts."

Where does my child go when they are arrested?

Depending on your child’s age and the alleged offense, the Police Officer may process the case in a few different ways. The Police may do one of the following:

  1. Release your child to you and advise you of a future court date, time, and place for your child to appear;
  2. If the courts are open, bring your child directly to the appropriate courthouse depending on whether your child is charged as a JD, JO, or AO; or
  3. Bring your child to an ACS detention center if the courts are closed. Your child may be seen by the Department of Probation and be released to you, or your child may stay in detention and be transported to court the following day.

What happens after my child is arrested as a Juvenile Delinquent?

The New York City Department of Probation (DOP) conducts an interview with the child, the family, the Police Officer, and the victim. Based on the interviews, the probation officer may refer the case to a prosecutor with the New York City Law Department to file a juvenile delinquency petition in the Family Court based on the interviews.

Instead of referring the case to the Law Department, the Probation Officer may “adjust” the case. This means that DOP will send your child home and monitor them for up to 60 days. If your child follows all the rules and conditions, the case would end without Family Court involvement. However, if your child is not complying with DOP supervision, the Probation Officer will work with the Law Department to file a juvenile delinquency petition in Family Court. If a JD petition is filed, the judge will decide whether to release your child to you with no conditions, release to you and place the child under the supervision of DOP or an alternative-to-detention program, or remand your child to an ACS juvenile detention facility.

What happens after my child is arrested as a Juvenile Offender or Adolescent Offender?

Your child will be assigned an attorney and will make his or her first appearance in the borough Supreme Court's Youth Part, which is known as "arraignment." The court may decide to transfer the case to the family court where it will then proceed as a juvenile delinquency case (see above). If the case stays in the Youth Part, the judge will decide whether to release your child to you with no conditions, release to you and place the child under the supervision of DOP, set bail, or remand your child to detention (held in detention without bail).

Does my child need a lawyer?

Your child will need a lawyer to represent them in court and the court will assign one free of cost if you cannot afford one.

While the court case is pending, does my child get to come home?

The judge decides where your child will remain while the case is pending in court. The judge may order your child to an ACS detention facility if they have reason to believe that your child will get in trouble again or skip upcoming court dates.

What happens at a fact-finding hearing (for JD youth) or trial (for JO/AO youth)?

A fact-finding hearing occurs in family court juvenile delinquency proceedings and is similar to a criminal trial in the adult court system. The judge hears evidence from the prosecutor and the youth to determine whether the youth committed the offense(s) that they were charged with. If the court finds that the youth committed the offense(s), it will schedule a dispositional hearing to determine whether the youth is in need of probation supervision, treatment, or placement. Similarly, if your child is charged as a JO or AO, the judge will schedule a trial to determine whether the youth committed the offense(s) charged. If your child is found guilty, the court will then schedule a sentencing hearing to determine whether the youth requires probation supervision or placement.

What happens at the dispositional hearing (for JD youth) or sentencing (for JO/AO youth)?

The dispositional hearing is similar to the sentencing hearing in the adult system. The judge receives evidence from the probation officer about the youth’s case history, behavior, and progress. The court may order a Mental Health Evaluation by the Mental Health Services clinic within the Family Court if the judge feels that information will be helpful in determining the disposition of the case. Parents and other people with information helpful to the court may also testify. Similarly, for JO and AO youth in Supreme Court, the court will order a Pre-Sentence Investigation from DOP to aid in determining the appropriate sentence for the youth.

Based on the testimonies and any supporting documents, the court decides which option would best meet the needs of the youth and safety of the community. The court has the following options:

  1. Send the youth home without court supervision, but with certain conditions set by the court, which is called a conditional discharge;
  2. Send the youth home under DOP supervision;
  3. Send the youth home and put him or her in an alternative-to-placement program (for JD youth only);
  4. Place the youth in a Close to Home placement facility (for JD youth only); or
  5. Place the youth in a secure placement facility operated by the Office of Children & Family Services (for JO and AO youth only).

What is expected of my child if they are placed in a community-based program or under Probation supervision?

Your child is expected to follow the rules and conditions of the program and the Probation Officer. Probation could ask the court to place your child in a residential placement program if your child does not follow these rules.

Watch a video for families produced by the Center for Court Innovation that helps explain the juvenile justice process and answers common questions and concerns.

Download a Guide to the Juvenile Justice System for Youth.



Programs & Initiatives