A disposition hearing is a vital part of a juvenile crime case. During the disposition hearing, the judge determines what type of sentence is appropriate for the crime committed by the juvenile. In an adult criminal case, the corresponding portion of trial would be called the sentencing phase. The juvenile justice system often has different sentencing options for minors compared with similar crimes committed by adults.
During the disposition hearing, the judge basically applies a sentence that would be appropriate for the crime. When determining the sentence, the judge will make a decision based on several factors. These include:
- The age and background of the juvenile defendant
- The nature and severity of the crime
- Whether the offense was a first-time offense or a repeat offense
Juvenile disposition hearings often focus on alternative sentencing options for the defendant. The aim is usually on rehabilitating the minor and allowing them to re-integrate into society, rather than punish them through extended periods of incarceration.
For instance, rather than jail time, the judge may require the juvenile defendant to complete a diversion program or “divisionary program.” This is an alternative sentencing option that can involve measures such as counseling, community service, and other methods. The program is intended to “divert” the youth from the traditional jail route in attempts to correct their behavior through education.
The diversion program may be discussed during the disposition hearing, where the judge explains the terms of completion to the defendant.
Juvenile criminal trials generally require the assistance of a qualified attorney. You may need to hire a juvenile lawyer if you or one of your loved ones is facing criminal charges. An experienced attorney in your area can provide you with legal advice and representation, and can help determine what legal options are available.