What kind of cases does the court hear?

The responsibilities for Ohio’s Juvenile/Family courts vary from county to county. Some are combined Juvenile, Domestic and Probate or they may be combinations of two ie; Juvenile/Domestic or Juvenile/Probate. In the County of Summit, as in many of the larger urban areas, the Juvenile Court is a separate entity responsible for; Juvenile Traffic, Dependency/Neglect/Abuse, Legal Custody, and Delinquency & Status cases.

Explain Delinquency & Status Cases.

Any child under age 18 who violates a law which would be a crime if committed by an adult is considered to be delinquent by definition. Delinquent children are brought to Court either by the police or as a result of a summons from the Court. A Court Intake Officer reviews the Complaint against the child and decides what to do based upon available alternatives. The child may be referred back to a local police department for a “diversion program” or go through the official court process. This decision based on a number of factors, including the severity of the offense and the child’s past involvement with the Juvenile Court. Once adjudicated delinquent, the child may be placed on probation, referred to one of many rehabilitative programs or sent to youth prison. The Judge or Magistrate makes this decision based on a variety of factors. Any child who has violated a law applicable only to a child, such as truancy, curfew violation, and runaway, is considered to be a status offender. Also included in this category are unruly/incorrigible children who do not subject themselves to the reasonable control of their parents or teachers by reason of being wayward or habitually disobedient. On a first-time complaint, the family may be referred to an appropriate community agency to assist in achieving and maintaining order in their home. The family must put forth effort in this process, attend the sessions, and follow the recommendations of the agency. If, after extended agency involvement, the family is unable to maintain stability or achieve satisfactory resolution, the Court may intervene and provide probation or other services.

Explain Dependency/Neglect/Abuse Cases.

Juvenile Court has the important charge of ensuring that the children of Summit County live in a safe and healthy environment. Through the Children’s Services Board (CSB), allegations of abuse and neglect are investigated and at times children are removed from their homes for their protection. Through various community agencies, parent(s) are provided with resources and services to help resolve the problems that made court involvement necessary. The Court oversees this process through an array of court hearings during the pendency of the case. The ultimate goal of court involvement is to ensure the child has a safe and permanent home within one year. The Juvenile Court focuses on the best interest of the child when making its determinations in these matters. To this end, the Court appoints a Guardian ad Litem for the child to represent the child’s best interests. Certain circumstances require the services of an Attorney/Guardian ad Litem. The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program provides intensive training to community volunteers who are dedicated to the safety and welfare of children. In many cases, Children are ultimately reunited with their parent(s): however, some situations require placement with relatives and/or eventual termination of parental rights. A five-fold increase of filings over the past twenty-five years had necessitated many systemic changes to manage the onslaught of cases. Due to legislative changes, namely House Bill (HB) 484 (1999), the Children Services Board is now requires to “front load” services, providing extensive intervention before a case is filed in Juvenile Court.

Explain Juvenile Traffic Cases.

Summit County Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over all juvenile traffic cases in the county of Summit. These cases can range in severity from a Stop Sign violation to Vehicular Homicide offense. An area of great concern for our community is children driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Penalties for driving under the influence may include suspending a driver’s license, attending driving school, and attending drug or alcohol treatment.

Explain Legal Custody Cases.

Summit County Juvenile Court addresses requests for custody by a non-parent (third-party), where Summit County Children Services Board (CSB) has not already initiated an action regarding the child. The Court also hears cases regarding modifications of custody orders, where Juvenile Court earlier awarded Legal Custody to a non-parent. Juvenile Court may assume jurisdiction of these third-party custody cases, only when the subject child is not a ward of any other court. Before the Court will award Legal Custody of a child to a non-parent, the Court must make two findings: (1) the parents are unfit or not suitable to raise the child, and (2) it is in the best interest of the child to award custody to the requesting party. Unlike cases in which CSB is involved, the Court does not automatically appoint a Guardian ad Litem for the child. The Court may, however, appoint a Guardian when circumstances indicate that the child requires an advocate to represent the child’s best interest. Further, where evidence indicates abuse, neglect, dependency or other concern for the child’s health or safety, the Court will refer the matter to CSB for investigation.

What are some of the punishments handed down by the court?

The purpose of the juvenile court, as stated in the Ohio Revised Code is as follows:
*Protect the public interest and safety
*Hold the offender accountable for his or her actions
*Restore the victim
*Provide for the care protection and mental and physical development of children

These purposes must be achieved by a system of graduated sanctions and services. The court has many options for young offenders including:
*Fines-Community services
*Home detention
*Electronic monitoring
*Day treatment
*Residential placement
*Commitment to state institution
*Bind-over to adult court.

What is the greatest difference between Juvenile Court and Adult Court?

Juvenile Court, in addition to accountability, focuses on rehabilitating offenders and working with families to keep youth from re-offending. If we can reach young people early, it can keep them from trouble as adults. Juvenile offenders do not have jury trials, or the ability to post bond.

Sometimes youths are tried as adults; why?

When a youth under the age of 18 commits a very serious offense or has already been through all the services that the juvenile system has to offer, he or she may be “bound-over” to the adult court.

Is the Judge the only one who can hear a Case?

One judge cannot hear the large volume of the cases coming before Juvenile Court. Magistrates are attorneys with significant legal experience who are appointed as hearing officers by the Judge to hear cases. The Judge has final approval of Magistrate’s decisions. In Summit County, there are ten full time Magistrates.

What is the process once a youth is charged with an offense?

Once a youth is charged with an offense the Court’s Intake Department conducts an assessment and gathers information about the incident and the family. Depending on the seriousness of the offense and whether there are prior offenses, cases may be handled informally, or assigned to the Judge or a magistrate for an official hearing.

What is a serious youth offender?

Effective January 1, 2002, Senate Bill 179 created the category of Serious Youthful Offenders (SYO’s). Youth who commit very serious offenses such as murder or other violent acts may be considered for a “blended sentence”. This could include an adult sentence if the youth is not rehabilitated in the juvenile system. Statewide there have been very few cases handled in this manner.

Do all the youths spend their sentence at Dan Street?

Only the most serious youthful offenders stay in detention. Detention is a short-term temporary secure holding facility that is used while planning for final disposition, or for accountability. Average length of stay is less than 10 days. If a youth must be incarcerated for longer periods of time, the Ohio Department of Youth Services administers several state institutions where children are held.

What is house arrest?

A youthful offender may be placed on house arrest as a sanction or while his of her case is pending. The youth may not leave home except to attend school or other approved activities. The house arrest may simply be accomplished through a court order or may be monitored with an electronic device.

What happens if a youth violates probation or a court order?

If a youth violates probation or a court order, the court worker assigned to the case may file a formal violation. Another hearing will be held and the child may receive additional consequences including detention.

How many youths can be held at the Dan Street Detention Center?

The Dan Street facility has 70 beds, 56 for boys and 14 for girls. The Detention Center is currently being expanded to accommodate 100.

How are victims of crimes served by Juvenile Court?

In May of 2000, the Victim Services Office was established in a proactive response to House Bill 3. House Bill 3 requires victims of delinquent behavior to be notified of all Court hearings (prior to the Prosecutor’s involvement) and any Judicial/Early Release hearings ordered by the Court. Victims of a delinquent sexual act are notified of the juvenile offenders STD/HIV status. Additionally, victims are provided notification of those cases referred to police diversion. In order to comply with the legislation new procedures were implemented allowing for cross-reference of offender and victim. To promote public awareness a brochure was developed, describing the responsibilities of the Victim Services Office, which highlights frequently asked questions by victims, helpful phone numbers, and a detailed flow chart illustrating the Juvenile Court process. This program serves as the primary referral source to the Victim Assistance Program, who provides an advocate to accompany victims into Court. The advocates offer emotional support and assistance in completing the Victim Impact Statement. This program obtained membership on the National Crisis Response Team and the Ohio Crisis Response Team. Additionally, the National Organization of Victim Assistance (N.O.V.A.) awarded this program certification for Crisis Intervention.

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

The CASA/Guardian Ad Litem Program works to recruit, train and support child advocates who speak up for abused, neglected and dependent children in court. A CASA/GAL (Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem) is a trained community volunteer appointed to serve as a child’s advocate during the court process. The program’s mission is to provide every child who enters the court system as a result of allegations of abuse, neglect or dependency, with a trained community volunteer to advocate for what is in the child’s “best interest” by investigating, monitoring, and advocating on the child’s behalf. This year the CASA/GAL program is celebrating its 30th anniversary, speaking up for children in Summit County.

What if a person cannot afford an attorney?

If a youth or parent cannot afford an attorney, the court can appoint a private attorney or public defender to provide representation. Parents must complete a form and affidavit attesting to the inability to pay.

Does a juvenile offense always remain on a person’s permanent record?

Six months from the date a case is closed or on the youth’s 18th birthday after the case is closed, a youth or his/her parents may request that their case be sealed. A juvenile record does not automatically become sealed on the youth’s 18th birthday. All sealed records will be expunged 5 years after sealing or upon the 23rd birthday of the person who is the subject of the sealing order. A person may request that their sealed records be expunged earlier than would occur automatically. Forms are available from the court.

The End