There is a two-step process here too. The first piece would depend on the police department, how quickly they process that, but generally if someone is involved with a DUI, we’ll get notification of that probably in about two weeks that they’ll send in an allegation form to us alleging the child was involved in this kind of behavior.
We’ll then set up a preliminary hearing before they go to court. That’s generally about four weeks later, so we’re six weeks into it now. They come into my office and they’ll meet with an officer and they’ll collect some information and facts and the police officers oftentimes are here, and the district attorney, while they’re not here, reviews the findings and our officer would at that point make a recommendation for a court appearance.
We agreed with the district attorney probably 15 or 16 years ago that we would send all those matters to court, but they would be willing to consider consent decree in certain cases with that. So they all go to court, but we collect some information before that.
Now it generally takes, I would say two to four weeks to get it into court. So now we’re talking about ten weeks before the child’s in front of the judge. Now, that may seem like a long time, but in the adult system it would be two years that they would wait. So it’s a pretty quick turnaround in juvenile court.
Now they would come before the judge and obviously, he would have the final say with all this, but once again, if the child meets those criteria they would be given the opportunity to have a consent decree.
Obviously, we’re talking about someone who hasn’t been involved with our system before. Someone who has already been on probation or whatever wouldn’t get that opportunity. We’re looking for those kids who made a mistake and aren’t really going to be a problem and we want to give them the benefit of the doubt with it.
And then it depends on what happened. Was there an accident? Was someone hurt?.. and that sort of thing. The DA would determine whether they would agree with the consent decree based on those other facts. The child was driving by himself, there was no accident, he was just pulled over for driving erratically, and they would be a candidate for a consent decree, I should say.
So then we’ll have, maybe one or two cases each year that are more than that, you know, talking now about homicide by vehicle or some kind of related charges like that. That’s the same circumstance, but either someone is riding with a child or someone is involved in an accident where the child dies. And that’s a totally different circumstance, obviously.
And they would be treated much like the rest of our offenses here, depending on the circumstance, the age and how they’re doing in school, what the home life is like. I mean any number of different things could happen, but they certainly wouldn’t get a consent decree.
The idea here in juvenile court is we have to find out what happened, what the needs are and what we can do to help alleviate the situation. Oftentimes, with a driving thing it’s the alcohol that creates the situation and it’s not behavioral problems or some of the other different factors that we see here.