What is juvenile court? How is it different from adult court?

The goals of juvenile court are to reform, not punish, by:

  • Assisting the youth and his or her family with any needs they may have
  • Holding the youth accountable for their actions, and
  • Putting services in place so they don’t return to juvenile court in the future

The only real difference between juvenile and adult court is that there are no jury trials in juvenile court. Like adult court, juvenile cases always take place in a courtroom in front of a judge or referee.

How long does a juvenile court process take? 

If a youth is in custody (detention), generally the court process will take less than 28 days. If a youth is not in custody, the process could take between 3-6 months. During this time, juveniles may be ordered to follow certain court-ordered conditions of release. In some cases, they may also be on community or electronic monitoring. A juvenile may be placed out of their home while the court process is underway.

Who is involved in a juvenile case, and what role do they play? 

Every juvenile case involves a Juvenile Court Counselor, attorney, and the District Attorney (DA). 

  • JCC: The JCC is a guide for the youth and family, to help them understand the legal process. The JCC spends time getting to know the youth and writes a court report that helps the judge gain a strong sense of the youth and his or her family. These reports help the judge determine next steps that are in the best interest of the youth.
  • Attorney: Every youth in Multnomah County who has formal charges (an “active petition”) filed is assigned a defense attorney at no cost to the family. It’s the attorney’s job to explain to their juvenile clients what their rights and obligations are in terms of the charge filed against them. The attorney will help youths decide if they want to resolve the case through a court appearance (trial) or take a plea deal. Of these legal paths, the attorney will follow whichever one the youth chooses. The attorney’s client is the youth and the youth alone. Attorneys will not have contact with a youth’s parents in most cases. This is to protect what’s called attorney-client privilege, which keeps communications between an attorney and his or her client private. If a third party — even a parent — is present for conversations between a juvenile and his or her attorney, that third party can be forced to testify against their child.
  • District attorney (DA): This is the lawyer that represents the state of Oregon. The DA will review the police report, decide what charges will be filed against the youth, and prosecutes the case. The DA’s job is to represent the victim and the people of Oregon.

How can I understand the charges brought against my child? 

Your child’s JCC can help you understand the charges and range of possible consequences. You can also go online, to OregonLaws.org, and search on the charge to get detailed information about what it means and penalties allowed by law.

How do I know I can trust my child’s attorney? 

If your child’s attorney is meeting and speaking with your child on a regular basis, that’s a good sign. There are cases where a youth doesn’t get along well with his or her attorney, or there is a breakdown in trust. A youth can go to court to ask the judge to appoint a new attorney, or parents can retain their own attorney for their child. However, parents can’t ask the judge to give their child a new attorney. 

Please contact us with any additional questions or requests for assistance.

When court proceedings are complete, your youth may be assigned to: