In a juvenile criminal case, the “disposition hearing” is basically the sentencing portion of trial. The purpose of a disposition hearing is to determine the most appropriate form of treatment or custody for juvenile offenders.
Juvenile proceedings are distinct from regular adult criminal trials. Sentencing for juvenile crimes tends to focus more on rehabilitating the minor rather than punishment. This type of outlook is reflected in the disposition hearing, which sometimes provides the juvenile with treatment, rehabilitation, or training as an alternative for jail time.
What Is Determined during a Disposition Hearing?
During a disposition hearing, the juvenile court will focus on several key factors to determine what the consequences of the offense will be. In general, there are three basic determinations that are made during the juvenile dispositional hearing:
- Whether the child is in serious need of rehabilitation or counseling
- Whether protection is needed for the child or for the general public
- Whether the child may be placed on probation
These determinations will vary depending on the facts of each juvenile case. Some factors that a juvenile court analyzes during dispositions include:
- The juvenile laws of that particular jurisdiction or state.
- The nature of the crime committed by the juvenile defendant
- Any history of previous crimes
- Local public polices and social standards regarding juvenile sentencing measures
Note that, if the juvenile is tried as an adult, many of these protections will not be available. They will be tried according to adult laws, which often focus more on punishment and deterrence rather than rehabilitation.
Can Arguments Be Presented during Disposition Hearings?
Yes. At disposition hearings, the juvenile defendant and their attorney can present evidence which will help the judge to reach their decision. Also, the victim in the case can present oral or written testimony at the disposition hearings.
After hearing both sides, the judge will then review all the relevant arguments to reach the best solution for rehabilitating the minor. The judge will also make considerations regarding the best way to correct the injuries or losses of the victim.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Juvenile Disposition Hearings?
If you are involved in a juvenile disposition hearing, you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer for assistance in court. It is important that you present the judge with the facts and details surrounding your situation. Your attorney will be able to present every important and relevant piece of evidence to help secure a favorable outcome.