Our office represents the Commonwealth of Kentucky in pursuing actions on behalf of and against juveniles. Most juvenile prosecutions begin with a preliminary inquiry performed by a Court Designated Worker who assesses the case and informs the child and his or her parent or guardian whether the juvenile is eligible for any diversion programs. At the request of the county attorney or the child, however, the juvenile case may be referred directly to juvenile court. There are two primary classes of cases against juveniles: public offenses and status cases.
A public offense is an incident which would be considered criminal if the offender was an adult. These cases range from rather minor offenses to those that are quite serious. These proceedings are confidential and are geared toward rehabilitation.
Status offenses include truancy, runaways, and beyond control cases. Status offenses are offense that if committed by a person over the age of 18, would not be considered a criminal offense. These offenses are usually heard in family court, whereas the public offenses are resolved in district court.
Can a juvenile be treated an adult? Depending on the type of the offense committed and the child’s age, the county attorney may file a motion to transfer the juvenile case to adult court. Should this occur, the child has a right to a confidential transfer hearing in order for the court to determine whether the child meets the criteria to be tried as an adult, or a youthful offender. KRS 635.020. The transfer process is either automatic by statute or discretionary as determined by the court.
Not only do we pursue cases against offending juveniles, we also bring actions on their behalf. All children deserve safe, nurturing homes. We pursue actions against parents who neglect or abuse their children, and those who don’t provide basic care to them. A child may be removed from a home if their parents cannot demonstrate that they can properly provide for their children.
Our Juvenile Prosecution Team
Heather Matics (prosecutor) (859) 226-1878 Heather.Matics@fayettecountyattorney.com
Jade Morgan (prosecutor) (859) 226-1897 firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Zegafuse (Prosecution Assistant/Victim Advocate) (859)226-1871 email@example.com
The Fayette County Attorney’s Office does not file complaints against juveniles. To file a complaint against a juvenile, please contact the Court Designated Workers (CDW) office. (859) 246-2261 or 2262.
Any child detained by the county has a right to a confidential juvenile detention hearing within twenty-four (24) hours, exclusive of weekends and holidays, if accused of a status offense, or within forty-eight (48) hours, exclusive of weekends and holidays, if accused of a public offense. KRS 610.265. The purpose of the detention hearing is for the court to determine whether the child should be further detained. Some of the factors that the court should consider are the nature of the offense, the child’s background and history, and other information relevant to the child’s conduct or condition.
After the court determines whether the child should be detained, confidential juvenile court proceedings begin with an arraignment during which the child, who is accompanied by a parent or guardian, should be advised of his or her rights. At the arraignment, the child will be given an opportunity to admit or deny the offense.
If the child makes an admission on the record, the case will be scheduled for a disposition hearing, which is similar to an adult sentencing hearing. If the juvenile denies the offense, the case will be scheduled for an adjudication hearing, which is similar to a court trial in front of a judge. At the adjudication hearing, the juvenile may be found not guilty or adjudged delinquent. Should the court make a finding of delinquency, the case will then be scheduled for the aforementioned disposition hearing.
The attendance of parents and representation by counsel are crucial at every stage of juvenile proceedings, especially detention hearings, transfer hearings and disposition hearings. Juvenile defendants in the Commonwealth of Kentucky are automatically appointed a public defender.
OPTIONS OF COURT AT DISPOSITIONAL HEARING
The following are only examples of what the juvenile court may order (For specifics about probation, commitment and detention, see KRS 635.060):
- Order your child to pay restitution or reparation to any injured person
- Order parents or guardians to pay restitution or reparation to any injured person if the court finds that the person’s failure to exercise reasonable control or supervision was a substantial factor in the child’s delinquency
- Place the child on supervised probation in the child’s own home or in a suitable home or boarding home (A child placed on probation shall be subject to the visitation and supervision of a probation officer or an employee of the Department of Juvenile Justice.) For specifics about the terms, conditions and duration of probation, see KRS 635.060.
- Commit the child to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice, or grant guardianship to a child-caring facility, a child-placing agency authorized to care for the child, or place the child under the custody and supervision of a suitable person. For specifics about the terms, conditions and duration of commitment, see KRS 635.060.
- If the child is fourteen (14) years of age but less than sixteen (16) years of age, order that the child be confined in an approved secure juvenile detention facility, juvenile holding facility, or approved detention program as authorized by the Department of Juvenile Justice for a period of time not to exceed forty-five (45) days; or
- Any combination of the dispositions listed above except that, if a court probates or suspends a commitment in conjunction with any other dispositional alternative, that fact shall be explained to the juvenile and contained in a written order.
If the child is sixteen (16) years of age or older, order that the child be confined in an approved secure juvenile detention facility, juvenile holding facility, or approved detention program as authorized by the Department of Juvenile Justice for a period of time not to exceed ninety (90) days. For specifics about the terms, conditions and duration of detention, see KRS 635.060.
Depending on the type of the offense committed and the child’s age, the county attorney may file a motion to transfer the juvenile case to adult court. Should this occur, the child has a right to a confidential transfer hearing in order for the court to determine whether the child meets the criteria to be tried as an adult, or a youthful offender. KRS 635.020. The transfer process is either automatic by statute or discretionary as determined by the court.
Preliminary Hearing for Discretionary Transfer:
- At the preliminary hearing, the court shall determine if there is probable cause to believe that an offense was committed, that the child committed the offense, and that the child is of sufficient age and has the requisite number of prior adjudications, if any, necessary to fall within the purview of KRS 635.020.
- If the District Court determines probable cause exists, the court shall consider the following factors before determining whether the child’s case shall be transferred to the Circuit Court:
- If, following the completion of the preliminary hearing, the District Court finds, after considering the factors enumerated in paragraph (b) of this subsection, that two (2) or more of the factors specified in paragraph (b) of this subsection are determined to favor transfer, the child may be transferred to Circuit Court, and if the child is transferred, the District Court shall issue an order transferring the child as a youthful offender and shall state on the record the reasons for the transfer. The child shall then be proceeded against in the Circuit Court as an adult, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
- If, following completion of the preliminary hearing, the District Court is of the opinion, after considering the factors enumerated in paragraph (b) of this subsection, that the child shall not be transferred to the Circuit Court, the case shall be dealt with as provided in KRS Chapter 635.
- The seriousness of the alleged offense;
- Whether the offense was against persons or property, with greater weight being given to offenses against persons;
- The maturity of the child as determined by his environment;
- The child’s prior record;
- The best interest of the child and community;
- The prospects of adequate protection of the public;
- The likelihood of reasonable rehabilitation of the child by the use of procedures, services, and facilities currently available to the juvenile justice system; and
- Evidence of a child’s participation in a gang.
Under KRS 635.020(4), a court does not have to consider the factors enumerated above and the child shall automatically be transferred to circuit court to be tried as an adult if the district court finds:
- probable cause to believe,
- the child committed a felony,
- that a firearm was used in the commission of the felony, and
- the child was fourteen (14) years of age or older at the time of the commission of the alleged felony.