Our Division is responsible for receiving police reports involving juveniles. In the year 2011, we received more than 4,000 reports. We filed 2,101 Juvenile Offender (JO) cases in 2011. Of the 2101 cases filed, 298 were felony charges. The most common crimes committed by juveniles in 2011 were misdemeanor theft (theft of property with a value less than $1,000.00) misdemeanor drug and alcohol cases.
Kansas laws have changed a great deal over the past few years. JO procedures are now very similar to those of adults. A JO case would start with law enforcement action. Once called in to investigate a juvenile matter, police are given great discretion as to how to proceed. The officer may take no action, may send a report out to our office and/or may also take the juvenile into custody.
Once a report reaches our office, we consider whether to file charges. Sufficiency of evidence and the need for court intervention are the two main considerations in this decision. Our office has several options: no charges, a warning letter, a youth court referral, Diversion, or a court filing.
If the matter is filed with the court, notice is given to the juvenile and his or her family. The court will appoint an attorney to represent the juvenile although the family is free to retain private counsel.
Families are responsible for the cost of an appointed attorney at the rate of $60 an hour. If parents or guardians are deemed indigent, the court may remit fees in part or in whole.
Once filed, the juvenile (called a "Respondent" in court) may request Diversion or answer to the charge. Diversion is a program for low-level first time offenders. It is an agreement between the Respondent and the court to follow a Diversion education program. If the program is completed, the case is dismissed without a finding of guilt. If Diversion is not requested or approved, the Respondent must answer the charges. Upon a plea of guilty to the charge, the court will adjudicate (or judge) the Respondent to be a juvenile offender. If the Respondent pleads not guilty, the matter is set for trial.
At trial, the District Attorney’s Office bears the burden of proof: beyond a reasonable doubt. The Respondent benefits from almost all the same rights an adult criminal defendant would have. If the Respondent is adjudicated by plea or trial, the judge has the power to make sentencing orders. The judge is authorized to order the Respondent on probation, in treatment, pay a fine and/or be placed in a facility.