Who are all the parties in my child’s juvenile delinquency case?

When your child has a criminal case in juvenile district court in any county, there will often times be several parties participating in your child’s case. First, there is a judge a magistrate who will preside over the parties and hear the case. The prosecutor (district attorney) will also be present at all court dates, that is the attorney who works for the state or county and will prosecute your child.

If your child has bonded out of custody they will often have to comply with pre-trial services who works for the state or county. Your child will be ordered to report to a pre-trial officer. The pre-trial officer is similar to a probation officer, however, the pre-trial officer only supervises your child up to resolution of the case, which in some cases can be several months. If your child is on probation, they will have to report to a probation officer and that probation officer will also appear at court.

Anytime a parent or family member are alleged to have been a victim of a crime committed by your child, the court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to represent the best interests of your child. A GAL is an attorney that will appear and advise the court of what they believe is in your child’s best interest. A GAL is not your child’s defense attorney. If your child speaks with their defense attorney, all communications are privileged. Communications with the GAL are not privileged.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) will also participate in your child’s case anytime your child or family is in need of services such as therapy, treatment, or out of home placement. A caseworker from DHS will appear in court to advise the court of what services are in place or what services are recommended. The DHS caseworker also has an attorney to represent their interests, that is the county attorney of the county in which you reside. The county attorney will often appear in court as well.

Most important is your child’s defense attorney. In addition to defending your child against their charges, your child’s defense attorney will communicate with all the parties and advise you of all the various positions of each of the parties. Without a defense attorney, families and children are left guessing as to the positions of each party and are often surprised at court when a certain recommendation is made and often times adopted by the court.