Usually, a resident remains in the Youth Center to complete his or her court process. Once a juvenile is admitted, he or she normally has a detention hearing within 72 hours. In Montgomery County, detention hearings are held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. At this hearing, the judge decides whether or not there is sufficient probable cause for the alleged crime and whether or not the child is a danger to the community. If this is determined to be the case the court then officially detains the juvenile, pending his or her adjudication hearing that must be held within the next 10 days.
At the adjudication hearing, the judge decides whether or not the child did in fact commit a delinquent or dependent act (based on the evidence and proof) beyond a reasonable doubt. Most residents are then continued in detention until the disposition hearing that must be held within the next 20 days. The court then uses assessments by the psychiatrist and/or psychologist and reports by the Juvenile Probation Department, the school, and the Youth Center as an aid in determining whether the child can return home under the supervision of the court or whether the child should be committed to a residential placement, group home, or foster care. For more information on the Juvenile Court process, access the Juvenile Probation Department.
A resident has the right to be represented by an attorney at each phase of the court process. If the child does not have a private attorney, the court may assign a public defender to represent them. Most juvenile hearings are held in the Youth Center courtroom Monday through Friday. beginning at 9 a.m. Parents or others involved in the resident’s case must sign in and wait in the courtroom lobby until their case is called. Parents of detention residents do not have access to their child prior to court. Detention residents are escorted to a holding room by staff and are then supervised by the sheriffs until their case is called. Shelter residents are allowed to wait with their parents and guardians in the courtroom lobby prior to the start of their hearing. However, they are under the supervision of shelter staff at all times.
The public defender and his or her assistants are appointed by the commissioners. All defenders must be attorneys. The office represents, without charge, each indigent person under arrest or charged with an indictable offense. If the defendant requests it or if the court orders it, the defender counsels and defends the indigent person at every stage of the proceedings and may prosecute any appeals. In addition, the Juvenile Advocacy Unit represents children in all phases of dependency, delinquency, and Orphans Court matters.