Vermont Criminal Justice Process - Juveniles

Victims of Juvenile Offenders

If you are the victim of a juvenile offender, you may not be entitled to many of the rights that are described in this information. This information will explain the rights that you do have.

According to state statute, if the offender is under 18 and is charged in juvenile court, you will not be told his/her identity. You cannot be present at the sentencing unless the court allows, or unless you are the juvenile's parent or guardian. However, you can give the court a written or tape recorded statement explaining your views about the crime, the sentence, and your need for restitution. The court must consider your views and inform you of the sentence.

Note: An act committed by a juvenile that would be a crime if committed by an adult is defined as a "delinquent act."

The Judicial Process

After a delinquent act is committed, the police investigate. If they find that a delinquent act has occurred, they will send the case to the State's Attorney's office to decide whether to file charges in Family Court, change the juvenile as an adult in District Court, or send the juvenile to the Court Diversion program.

District Court Process

A sixteen or seventeen-year-old may be charged as an adult in District Court. Their cases may follow the adult criminal court process, or a judge may transfer the case to Family Court. For certain serious offenses, juveniles younger than sixteen may be charged with crimes in District Court rather than with acts of delinquency in Juvenile Court.

Family Court Process

  1. A delinquency petition is filed by the State's Attorney's office, referring the case to Family Court. There may be a detention hearing to decide who should have temporary custody of the juvenile until the next hearing. The juvenile will be asked to admit or deny the charges. If the juvenile denies the charges, there will be a Merits Hearing in Family Court. This is like a trial, but the decision is made by the judge alone, and it is not a public hearing. 
  2. If you, as a witness, are subpoenaed to testify, you will only be allowed in the courtroom during your own testimony. If the judge decides that the juvenile is delinquent (guilty), a Disposition Report is ordered and a Disposition Hearing will be scheduled. The Disposition Report, which is completed by the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, considers the juvenile's family background and any previous delinquency incidents, and recommends appropriate treatment consequences.
  3. At this point, you should receive a letter from Family Court asking for your input: a written or tape-recorded statement about how the crime affected you and your family, your financial losses, and what you think the consequences should be. If you are the victim in a delinquency proceeding based on a listed crime, you can ask to be notified when conditions of release are initially ordered or modified by the court.
  4. At the Disposition Hearing, the judge will decide on the consequences, which may include juvenile probation, SRS custody, counseling, and restitution. You will not be allowed to attend this hearing unless the judge allows. However, you have the right to be told the results. If the juvenile is convicted of an offense which would have been a felony if an adult had committed it, you have the right to be told the juvenile's name.
  5. If you have uninsured medical, counseling, lost wages, or funeral expenses resulting from this juvenile offense, you may be entitled to Victims Compensation.