There are two types of cases that juvenile courts normally handle involving minors (those children under 18). The first is a CHINS case. This acronym means “child in need of services.” There are several categories of CHINS cases. In most cases, CHINS cases involve allegations of abuse or neglect of a child by his or her parents. The second type of case is juvenile delinquency. These cases are matters where a juvenile has committed an act that but for his age, would a crime.
For CHINS cases, most tips come from the state hotline. Upon receiving a report of abuse or neglect, the Department of Child Services must immediately conduct an investigation. While some cases are dismissed, DCS can request authority to file a CHINS case and it begins. If the case is severe abuse/neglect or sexual abuse, DCS can get an immediate detention hearing and seek to remove the children from parental care.
The detention proceeding has a special rule of evidence that applies to it given the alleged risk to the child and allow hearsay statements and other evidence to be presented to the judge that would otherwise not be admissible. Given the parents have criminal risk, they should seek counsel and remain silent in most case at a detention hearing.
In less serious cases, an initial hearing will be set, and the parents will be required to be present to hear the allegations. Parents can admit to the allegations and begin services or deny the allegations in the petition. This a very tricky situation because if the allegations contain criminal allegations and the parents admit to get the child services, they just admitted to a crime under oath which can and often times does, led to criminal prosecution. In less severe cases, parents can be deemed not to be cooperative with services, and after a true fact-findings (this, like in a criminal case, is the trial of the allegations) and disposition (this, like a criminal case, is the sentencing) may have a petition filed to terminate their parental rights. If successful, this severs the parent’s rights to his/her children. Thus, a parent involved in a CHINS action has risk of criminal charges and/or having his or her right to their children terminated.
With juvenile delinquency allegations, the child has the right to have counsel, confront witnesses, remain silent. The court has to prove the child’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, a juvenile delinquency adjudication can have life-long, adult implications, such as serving in the military.
Thus, parents who become involved in juvenile delinquency proceedings or have a child who is alleged to be a juvenile delinquent, should have experienced legal counsel to help them navigate the process or risk potential criminal charge or losing their children through a TPR proceeding. Equally, the parents of a juvenile delinquent serve their child well by retaining knowledgeable counsel. In each of these cases, a parent or juvenile may do well to assert their right to remain silent but doing so may hurt the case. Do you know the right answer? Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates have extensive experience in navigating CHINS cases and those where juvenile delinquency is alleged.
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