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Indiana Juvenile Crimes Defense Attorney

Indiana Juvenile Crimes Defense Attorney

When a parent receives a phone call notifying them that their child has been arrested and charged with a crime, they’re often at a loss for what to do. It’s common for parents to ask themselves, “What happens next? How do I get them out?” or to wonder, “how does the juvenile justice system even work?” Those are all fair questions, and ones that are best answered by an experienced Indiana juvenile crimes defense attorney.

The criminal defense team at Keffer Hirschauer LLP is led by two former deputy prosecutors, Bradley Keffer and Tom Hirschauer III, who both have vast experience navigating the complex systems of criminal justice set by the State of Indiana. Given this, they possess an insider’s understanding of how the juvenile justice system works and have a full understanding of everything that is at stake for your child.

When you choose to retain our firm, you’ll gain the services of an attorney that is fully invested in securing the best possible outcome in the case at hand. As passionate defenders and advocates, our goal is always to protect your child’s rights and ensure that they still have a bright future ahead of them. 

If your child has been arrested and you’re not sure what to do next, do not hesitate to contact our law firm. Although we are based in Indianapolis, we routinely handle cases all around the state of Indiana. No matter where you are, our defense lawyers are here for you. To speak with a juvenile crimes defense attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Indiana Juvenile Delinquency Laws

The Indiana juvenile delinquency laws can be found in Indiana Code 31-37. These laws address matters related to crimes committed by children, curfew violations, treatment and rehabilitation, and the processes of juvenile justice system, in general. While some of these statutes can be rather straightforward, others can be confusing and full of nuance. Therefore, it’s important that anyone with questions about delinquency or concerns about a juvenile delinquent speak with an experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney in Indiana.

Delinquent Children in Indiana

Indiana’s juvenile delinquency laws make an important distinction between two types of delinquents: “Delinquent Children Who Commit Acts That Would Be Offenses if Committed by Adults” and “Delinquent Children Who Commit Certain Other Acts and Who Need Care, Treatment, or Rehabilitation.”

Under Indiana Code 31-37-1, a child can be considered a delinquent child if they commit a delinquent act prior to turning 18 years old. In Indiana, a delinquent act is defined as an act that:

  • Would be considered a criminal offense if committed by an adult
  • Qualifies as “indecent display by a youth,” as defined in Indiana Code 35-45-4-6
  • Qualifies as “dangerous possession and unlawful transfer of a firearm,” as defined in Indiana Code 35-47-10-5

In addition, under Indiana Code 31-37-2, a child may also be considered a delinquent child if, prior to turning 18 years of age, they “commit a delinquent act described in this chapter and need care, treatment, or rehabilitation that the child is not receiving, is unlikely to accept voluntarily, and is unlikely to be provided or accepted without the coercive intervention of the court.” The various delinquent acts listed in this chapter of Indiana juvenile law include:

  • Leaving home without permission of parent, guardian, or custodian
  • Violation of compulsory school attendance law
  • Habitual disobedience of parent, guardian, or custodian
  • Curfew violation
  • Violation concerning minors and alcoholic beverages
  • Fireworks violations
  • Fleeing, violating home detention, removing monitoring device or failure to return

Taking a Child into Custody

Under certain circumstances, Indiana Code 31-37-4 provides law enforcement with the ability to take a child into custody. This may be under the authority of a court order or simply by a law enforcement officer acting with probable cause to believe that the child has committed a delinquent act, as described in the section above.

Once a delinquent child has been taken into custody several things may happen. If the child was taken into custody under a court order, Indiana Code 31-37-5-2 provides that they must be taken to the place designated in the order and await a detention hearing. If the child was not taken into custody under a court order, the law enforcement officer may release the child or release the child to the child’s parent, guardian or custodian. However, this may only happen if the parent, guardian, or custodian makes a written promise to bring the child before the juvenile court at a specified time. Finally, as stated in Indiana Code 31-37-5-3, a law enforcement officer may place the child in detention if they reasonably believe that:

  • The child is unlikely to appear before the court for subsequent proceedings
  • The child has committed an act that would be Murder or a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 Felony if committed by an adult
  • Detention is essential to protect the child or the community
  • The parent, guardian, or custodian cannot be located or is unable/unwilling to take custody of the child
  • The child has a reasonable basis for requesting that they not be released from custody

If a child is not released from custody by law enforcement, they must be delivered to a place designed by the court. In addition, the law enforcement officer shall immediately notify the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian and an intake officer of where the child is being held and the reason(s) for the child’s detention. If this situation occurs, it would be wise for the parent, guardian, or custodian to immediately contact an Indiana juvenile crimes defense attorney.

If a child was not taken into custody under court order AND placed in detention, the intake officer may elect to take several actions as provided by Indiana code Indiana Code 31-37-5-5. First, the intake officer may elect to release the child to the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian upon written promise to attend juvenile court at a specific time. They may also elect to impose additional conditions upon the child, such as home detention, electronic monitoring, curfew restrictions, etc. However, if the intake officer elects to impose additional conditions, the court must hold a detention hearing within 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) of the imposition of those conditions.

In addition, the intake officer may elect to place the child in detention. However, this decision must be made following an investigation of the facts and reasonable belief that the child is a delinquent child and: is unlikely to appear before the court for subsequent proceedings; has committed an act that would be Murder or a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 Felony if committed by an adult; detention is essential to protect the child or the community; the parent, guardian, or custodian cannot be located or is unable/unwilling to take custody of the child; or the child has a reasonable basis for requesting that they not be released from custody.

Detention Hearings for Juvenile Delinquents

If a child is not released from custody, a detention hearing must be held within 48 hours (excluding weekends and legal holidays) of the child being taken into custody. If the detention hearing is NOT held within this specified time period, Indiana Code 31-37-6-4 allows for the child’s release. In addition, notice of the time, place and purpose of the detention hearing must be given to the child; their parent, guardian, or custodian; or each foster parent/other caretaker with whom the child has been placed for temporary care. Furthermore, the parties mentioned must be notified of their right to retain an Indiana juvenile crimes defense attorney to assist with the legal defense.

At the detention hearing, the court must allow the parent, guardian, custodian, foster parent, or other caretaker to be heard and make recommendations to the court. However, upon making a determination, the court may decide to take one of several actions:

  • Release the child on their own recognizance
  • Release the child to their parent, guardian, or custodian
  • Order the child to be detained
  • Release the child, but impose certain conditions upon them, such as home detention, electronic monitoring, curfew restriction, surrender of Indiana driver’s license, etc.

Juvenile Delinquency Hearings in Indiana

Following the outcome of the detention hearing, there may be several subsequent hearings to address the matter of an alleged juvenile delinquent. Generally, these include the initial hearing, factfinding hearing, and dispositional hearing.

Initial Hearing

When the court sets an initial hearing, they are required to inform the child and their parent, guardian or custodian of both the nature of the allegations against the child, the possibility of a waiver to a court with criminal jurisdiction, available dispositional alternatives available, and, most importantly, the child’s rights, given the situation. As stated in Indiana Code 31-37-12-5, these rights include:

  • Be represented by counsel, such as an Indiana juvenile crimes defense attorney
  • Have a speedy trial
  • Confront witnesses against the child
  • Cross-examine witnesses against the child
  • Obtain witnesses or tangible evidence by compulsory process
  • Refrain from testifying against himself or herself
  • Have the state prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the child committed the delinquent act they have been charged with
  • Furthermore, it is the court’s duty to inform the parent, guardian, or custodian that if the child is adjudicated (or found to be) a delinquent child, they may be required to participate in a care, treatment, or rehabilitation program for the child and be held financially responsible for any services provided for the child or for the parent/guardian/custodian. However, it is well within this party’s rights to argue against an allegation regarding their participation in a program or their financial responsibility in paying for such program.

At the initial hearing, the court will determine whether a child admits or denies the allegations made against them. If the child admits to the allegations, the Court shall enter a judgment accordingly and schedule a dispositional hearing. If the child denies the allegations, or fails to respond, the Court may elect to hold a fact-finding hearing immediately following the initial hearing. However, except in the case of an emancipated child who has provided consent, the child; the child’s counsel, parent, guardian, or custodian; or the person representing the interests of the state MUST consent to the timing of the fact-finding hearing.

Fact-Finding Hearing

As stated previously, a fact-finding hearing may be held immediately following the conclusion of an initial hearing or scheduled for a future date. This hearing, in general, is much like that of an adult criminal proceeding. The prosecution will aim to show that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the child committed a delinquent act. In contrast, the child’s Indiana juvenile crimes defense attorney will attempt to disprove or discredit the allegations made against their client.

Following the close of all evidence, Indiana Code 31-37-13-4 allows the Court to continue the case for a period of time of up to 12 months. However, if the child or the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian, requests the judgment be entered, the Court then has 30 days to enter a judgment.

If the Court ultimately finds that the child is a delinquent child (in other words, is guilty) they shall then enter a judgment, and proceed to order a predispositional report and dispositional hearing. On the other hand, if the Court finds that the child is NOT a delinquent child, they shall then proceed to discharge the child.

Dispositional Hearing

The dispositional hearing is much like that of a sentencing hearing for an adult convicted of a crime. This hearing is meant to consider and rule on possible alternatives for the care, treatment, rehabilitation, and/or placement of the delinquent child. It’s also intended to determine the necessity, nature, and extent of participation and financial responsibility that should be required of the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child.

At the dispositional hearing, the Court will enter into evidence a predispositional report prepared by a probation officer. This report will contain, among other relevant information, a statement of and recommendation for the needs of the child for care, treatment, rehabilitation, etc. The defense, on the other hand, may prepare their own alternative report for consideration or make an argument against the predispositional report in court.

From here, the court may proceed to refer the child to civil commitment hearings, if the child has a mental illness or enter a dispositional decree. Per Indiana Code 31-37-18-6, this decree must be consistent with the safety of the community and the best interest of the child and be in the least restrictive and most appropriate setting available, close to the parent’ home. It must be the least disruptive to family life and least interfere with family autonomy. In addition, the decree must impose the least restraint on the freedom of the child and the child’s parent, guardian or custodian, and provide that individual with a reasonable opportunity for participation. As laid out in Indiana Code 31-37-19, the decree may ultimately place the child in a foster home or other facility, in a shelter care facility outside of the county of residence, or in a home or facility outside of Indiana.

Indiana Juvenile Facilities

Unlike adult offenders, the vast majority of juvenile delinquents remanded to detention are placed in Indiana juvenile facilities or youth centers, rather than prison facilities maintained by the Indiana Department of Corrections. These facilities are often more like residential treatment facilities than prisons. In fact, within these facilities the children may continue their education by attending an on-site school and pursue a curriculum that is tailored to their individual needs. In addition, some facilities and centers offer continuing education programs, allowing students to prepare for the GED or simply develop life skills aimed at allowing them to make an easier transition back into the community.

Have Questions? Talk to an Indiana Juvenile Crimes Defense Attorney today.

It’s important to know that if your child is currently at risk of being deemed a juvenile delinquent, you don’t need to handle this all on your own. Enlisting the help of an Indiana juvenile crimes defense attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP will take much of the burden of protecting your child off your shoulders and place it in the hands of a skilled and experienced Indiana defense lawyer.

Our Indianapolis attorneys have a keen understanding of how the Indiana juvenile justice system works. They understand how the local courts here in Indianapolis operate, as well as those all around the state of Indiana. No matter where you and your child live in Indiana, no matter the circumstances under which they’ve been charged – our criminal defense team is here for you.

To speak with an Indiana juvenile crimes defense attorney today, call Keffer Hirschauer LLP at 317-751-7186 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.