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  Juvenile Cases - Arizona Legal Process  

Juvenile Court system is geared toward the "best interest of the child" and as such as a different set of rules than the adult court system along with terminology to distinguish itself. Juvenile courts are geared more towards rehabilitation rather than punishments with the records of offenses are generally sealed.

Juvenile System

Adult System

Delinquent Act Crime
Pre-Adjudication Hearing Pretrial Conference
Adjudication Hearing Trial
Found Delinquent Convicted/Found Guilty
Disposition Sentencing
Detention Incarceration


  1. Detention Hearing (A.R.S. § 13-501, Ariz.R.J.Pro. 23. D).
    If a juvenile is arrested by law enforcement and not released to a parent or legal guardian, the Court must conduct a "Detention Hearing" within 24 hours to determine whether to release conditions or be held for detention (jail). As part of the release conditions the Court will have a Probation Officer contact the juvenile and the parents in order to obtain background information concerning the juvenile and then make a recommendation to the Court as to what type of release, if any, is appropriate.

  2. Advisory Hearing:
    An "Advisory Hearing" is conducted to inform the juvenile of the charges being filed and a right to an attorney. If a plea of Not Guilty is entered at the Advisory Hearing, then an "Adjudication Hearing" (i.e. a Bench Trial) is set within 45-60 days.

  3. Transfers to Adult Court (A.R.S. § 13-501).
    The prosecution can ask the juvenile case to be transferred to the Adult Court in order to try the juvenile as an adult. This only can occur in very specific serious felony offenses and if the juvenile is 14 years of age or older.

    An "automatic transfer" can occur if the juvenile is 15 years of age or older and has been alleged to have committed a violent crime. In addition, if the juvenile has 2 prior juvenile adjudications and he believes it is required to protect the public's safety, then the Prosecutor has discretion to transfer the juvenile to Adult Court by designating that juvenile a "chronic felony offender."

    In other situations, the Prosecutor must file a Motion with the Juvenile Court requesting the transfer of the juvenile where the Court has discretion in these situations and review all factors before making their determination.

  4. Pre-adjudication Hearing:
    Pre-adjudication Hearing is set in order to discuss the status of the Discovery Process where the prosecution turns over the police reports and other evidence against the juvenile. In addition, various evidentiary motions may be argued at this hearing.

  5. Plea Agreements (i.e., Disposition):
    A Disposition resolution can be negotiated and entered at any time during the process where the juvenile admits to lesser charge. This is where the juvenile's attorney could contact law enforcement and prosecutor directly in order to work out a resolution in the best interest of the child.

  6. Adjudication Hearing (i.e. Bench Trial): If the case is not dismissed or through a "plea agreement" resolved then an "Adjudication Hearing" will take place. This process is identical to adult court bench trials where witnesses take the stand and will provide testimony. This can include having witnesses testify on the juvenile's behalf, including the juvenile will also be given the opportunity to testify.

    The Judge will then determine whether the case has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and then the Judge will make his ruling if the juvenile is "not delinquent" (not guilty) or is found to be "delinquent" (guilty), then the Judge will set the matter over to a "Disposition Hearing" (Sentencing). At that time, the Judge can again address release conditions or take the juvenile into custody pending the Disposition Hearing.

  7. Disposition Hearing: Prior to the Disposition Hearing the Judge will request that a "Pre-Disposition Report" (Pre-Sentence Report) be conducted regarding the juvenile where the juvenile will meet with the Juvenile Probation Department Officer who will obtain basic background information regarding the juvenile along with documents.

    At the Disposition Hearing the Prosecutor can present aggravating evidence, if he so chooses and the defense attorney can and should present mitigating evidence. Then the Judge imposes the sentence which generally ends on the juvenile's 18th birthday.

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Juvenile Cases - Case Stages AZ Legal Process