FACT-FINDING v. ADMISSION
The Public Defender Service Corporation represents minors charged with offenses involving drugs and alcohol, among other matters. The Public Defender attorneys provide legal advise as to the strength of each case, the defenses available to the minors, as well as advising the minors of the options available to them and assisting them in making a decision in resolving the case.
Like the adult defendants, minors still have the option of denying the allegations, in which case, the Public Defender Service Corporation will represent the minor in a fact-finding (also known as a “trial”) process. Under this option, the burden is on the government to prove the allegations by presenting evidence to the judge who will ultimately decide whether the allegations are true or not true. If the government has not proven the case, the judge will order that the case be dismissed. However, if the judge finds that the allegations are true, then the judge shall set the matter for a disposition hearing (also known as a “sentencing” hearing). At this hearing, the court must ultimately decide what punishment and rehabilitative conditions will best serve the interest of the minor.
Minors, however, can agree to waive their right to this fact-finding and admit their guilt to the allegations. By doing so, there will be no fact finding and the judge again must decide what punishment and rehabilitative conditions will best serve the interest of the minor.
The role of the judge at disposition is not only to punish the minor but more importantly to rehabilitate the minor. Punishment could include confinement at the Department of Youth Affairs (DYA). However, the focus of the juvenile drug court is to rehabilitate the minor. Minors who are found guilty or admit to the allegations involving drugs or alcohol will be referred to either the non-intensive treatment program or the intensive treatment program.
Non-Intensive Treatment Program:
Minors placed in the non-intensive program usually are required to attend the counseling programs offered by the Department of Mental Health and Social Services Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Program or Sanctuary’s Pathway Program. Other conditions of probation will include random drug alcohol testing, community service, and monthly reporting to the probation office.
Intensive Treatment Program:
The intensive treatment program will require drug and alcohol counseling, individual counseling, and family counseling, in addition to weekly drug testing,, court hearings, checking in with the probation office. Family members are encouraged to participate with the minor in the various activities especially with family counseling. Other activities include Life Skills and Recreational Therapy.
Minors placed in the intensive program are required to complete four (4) phases. Each phase has certain requirements before the minor can be promoted to the next phase. The whole program tries to retain the minors to make correct decisions by incorporating a sanction and incentive methodology. For example, if a minor does well and continues to follow all the court conditions, the court may congratulate him or her and offer the minor a gift (i.e. tickets to the movies). However, if the minor fails to report for a drug test or tests positive for drugs or alcohol, the minor will be remanded to DYA for a minimum of 2 days.
Upon completion of the final phase, the minor will graduate from the program and will have their case dismissed and expunged.