Juvenile Offenses and
Dependent, Neglect, or Abused (DNA) Cases
With a focus on rehabilitation, our office pursues actions against juveniles who commit public or status offenses. We also believe children deserve safe and nurturing homes, and pursue actions against parents and guardians who neglect, abuse, or don’t provide basic care to their children.
Most juvenile cases begin with a preliminary inquiry performed by a Court Designated Worker who assess the case and informs the child and the parent or guardian if the juvenile is eligible for diversion programs. However, the child or county attorney might request the case to be referred directly to juvenile court for resolution.
There are two primary classes of cases against juveniles: public offenses and status offenses.
“Public offenses” are offenses that are crimes if the offender is an adult. These offenses range from ordinance violations to felonies.
“Status offenses” are offenses that if committed by a person 18 or older are not crimes. Truancy, runaways, and beyond control are common status offenses.
To file a complaint against a juvenile, contact the Court Designated Workers’ Office at (859) 246-2261 or (859) 246-2262.
By law, any child detained by the county has a right to a confidential juvenile detention hearing within 24 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, if accused of a status offense, or within 48 hours, if accused of a status offense. The purpose of the hearing is for the court to determine if the child should continue to be detained. Some of the factors considered by the court are: the nature/seriousness of the offense, the child’s previous involvement in the court system, and other information relevant to the child’s conduct or conditions.
After the court determines if the child will be detained, confidential juvenile court proceedings begin. The child, accompanied by a parent or guardian, and represented by legal counsel, is arraigned and advised of the child’s rights. At the arraignment, the child may decide to admit or deny the offense, dependent upon the advice of legal counsel.
If the child admits to the offense on the record, the case will be schedule for a disposition hearing, similar to a sentencing hearing for adults. If the child denies the, the case will be scheduled for an adjudication 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.
Under KRS 635.020(4), a court does not have to consider the factors enumerated above and the child shall be automatically transferred to Circuit Court if the District Court finds probable case to believe:
- The child committed a felony,
- A firearm was used in the commission of the felony, and
- The child was 14 years of age or older at the time of the commission of the alleged felony.
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.
Dependency, neglect or abuse (DNA) actions are heard in Family Court and are not criminal proceedings. Our office represents the County and the best interest of the public in DNA court. The goal of DNA court is to ensure that children are properly cared for and protected by their parents and/or guardians.
Most child abuse falls into either the “neglect” or “abuse” category. “Neglect” occurs when a parent or custodian doesn’t adequately care for the child. “Abuse” occurs when the parent or custodian physically or emotionally injures the child or allows someone else to do so. It is possible for parents/guardians to have a DNA case and criminal case involving the same allegations simultaneously.
Click here if you suspect a child is being neglected or abused.