The Juvenile Division of Snohomish County Superior Court has jurisdiction to hear criminal cases where the accused is under 18 years of age. An exception is made for driving offenses, which are heard in district or municipal courts along with the adult cases. Juvenile cases are heard at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in north Everett, located at 2801 10th Street, Everett, WA 98201. The juvenile detention center is located at the same facility, as the law requires that juveniles held in custody must be housed separately from adult inmates.
Decline Hearings and Automatic Decline:
In some cases, a juvenile court judge can decline jurisdiction. This means sending the case to Superior Court in downtown Everett where the accused is tried as an adult. In certain cases, the court will hold a hearing and let the prosecution and defense argue about whether the case should be heard in juvenile court or the accused should be tried as an adult. For example, if the accused juvenile is 16 or 17 years old and the offense charged is a “serious violent offense” like Assault 1 or Murder 1, Washington law requires automatic decline, and the case is transferred to Superior Court in downtown Everett. If your child has been charged with a crime, you should consult an experienced juvenile attorney to explore your options. In most cases, keeping the case in Juvenile Court is a much better option than fighting a felony in Superior Court.
Juvenile courts are restorative, not punitive. The goal is to correct delinquent behavior so that the child can recover and lead a productive life. Another difference between juvenile and adult courts is the loss of the right to a jury trial. All cases in juvenile court are heard by a judge. Otherwise, the constitutional right to trial by a “jury of your peers” would mean empanelling children to sit on the jury. Juvenile “trials” are called adjudications.
In keeping with this restorative mission, juvenile court has an active probation department. In adult cases, probation does not become involved until after a person is convicted of a crime. In juvenile court, probation attends every court hearing and usually schedules a meeting with an accused child prior to the adjudication hearing. The probation department can help children access services prior to the resolution of the case. If a disposition is reached, the probation officer will make a recommendation to the judge as to sentencing.
Juvenile Court also has an active diversion program. Diversion can result in charges being dismissed or not filed in court. In appropriate cases, a diversion agreement can be negotiated with the diversion department in juvenile court. Conditions can include counselling, community service, and good behavior. Diversion records are automatically destroyed following successful completion of a diversion agreement. If your child is being offered diversion or would like to consider the process, you should consult with a qualified juvenile attorney to discuss your options.
If your child is adjudicated guilty of a juvenile offense, in many cases the record can be sealed after a period of good behavior. The juvenile sealing process is much more comprehensive than the adult procedure for vacating convictions. Juvenile sealing requires bringing a motion to seal, which includes vacating the conviction, restoring firearms rights, and sealing the record. If you are interested in sealing a juvenile record, contact an experienced juvenile attorney to discuss your case.