After entering a plea of guilty or after trial has proven guilt, the next step in a juvenile delinquency case is a sentencing hearing. The purpose of a sentencing hearing is to determine the proper way to dispose of the case in the best interests of the juvenile, as well as the public. The sentencing hearing can take place anytime after trial, but must be concluded within 45 days of the completion of trial.
Prior to the sentencing hearing probation may conduct a presentence investigation, primarily to assist the determination of what services may be the most appropriate for the juvenile. During the presentence investigation probation may address any one or more of the following items:
- Details of the committed offense;
- The victim’s statements of the offense;
- Whether restitution is being ordered and the amount;
- Previous criminal history;
- History of substance abuse;
- Education history;
- Peer relationships;
- The condition of any applicable juvenile programs or community placements in the area;
- The juvenile’s needs as assessed by the probation department;
- Proposed treatment plans and recommendations;
The court also has the discretion to forgo the presentence investigation and proceed directly to the sentencing hearing.
One of the most important items that a court reviews during the sentencing hearing is the social study. A social study is a report prepared by the probation department or another court approved agency, to document the mental, physical, and social history and condition of the juvenile. Other custom reports may also be considered by the court during the sentencing hearing.
For cases where a juvenile is found to have committed unlawful sexual behavior, defined by Colorado Revised Statutes section 16-22-102(9), the court will consider past juvenile and criminal records during the sentencing hearing.
During the sentencing hearing a court may also determine whether a juvenile has a developmental disability. If the court believes that a juvenile has a developmental disability the court will refer the juvenile to a local community centered board (CCB) in order to determine whether they are eligible for the CCB’s services. CCBs generally provide social services for individuals with developmental disabilities such as education, therapy, behavioral health services, and support for families.
If the court believes that a juvenile may have a mental illness it will order a prescreening to determine if the juvenile can benefit from mental health services. The court may require mental health services in the sentencing if the prescreening report determines that a juvenile could benefit from mental health services.
The hearing can potentially extend over more than one day, at the court’s discretion. However, it may not continue for longer than 45 days after the trial has been concluded. If the sentencing hearing is required to be carried over for multiple days the juvenile may remain in detention or be released to parents or guardians. The sentencing hearings of juveniles in detention take priority over the sentencing hearings for juveniles who are not in detention.
When Stricter Penalties May be Imposed
Unlike adult criminal sentencing, juvenile courts generally have discretion in the length of time and type of requirements that it may impose on juveniles. However, in the below cases courts must consider harsher sentences:
- Mandatory Sentence Offenders: Juveniles who have previously been adjudicated delinquent or have had probation revoked after being adjudicated delinquent by the court are mandatory sentence offenders if they are adjudicated delinquent or have their probation revoked for a subsequent offense. Mandatory sentence offenders must be taken out of their home for a minimum of one year. However, the court has discretion to order an alternative sentence if the court finds that an alternative arrangement, other than out of home time for a year, would be beneficial. The court may also reduce the sentence if the juvenile demonstrates exemplary behavior after sentencing.
- Repeat Juvenile Offenders: Juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent for a prior act will become repeat juvenile offenders if they are adjudicated delinquent for an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult or if their probation is revoked for committing a felony offense. Repeat juvenile offenders can be sentenced to detention or another youth correctional program for minimum terms as determined by Colorado law.
- Violent Juvenile Offenders: Juveniles who are 13 years old or older and were adjudicated delinquent for a crime of violence are considered violent juvenile offenders. Violent juvenile offenders may also be sentenced to detention or another youth correctional program for minimum terms.
- Aggravated Juvenile Offenders: these are at least 12 year old juveniles who were either:
- Adjudicated delinquent for acts that would have been class 1 or class 2 felonies if committed by an adult or who had probation revoked for committing an act that would be considered a class 1 or class 2 felony, or;
- Adjudicated delinquent for an act at any level of felony and are later adjudicated delinquent for a violent offense or have probation revoked for committing a violent offense. The list of violent offenses may be found in Colorado Revised Statutes section 18-1.3-406, or;
- Adjudicated delinquent or had probation revoked for certain felony level sex offenses including incest. The list of sexual offenses that qualify are listed in Colorado Revised Statutes sections 18-3-401 through 18-3-417.
Aggravated juvenile offenders may be sentenced to the Colorado Department of Corrections for 5 years.
Types of Programs
In addition to placement at a Juvenile detention center, several other sentencing options exist. The following rehabilitative programs may be imposed by the court if it finds that the juvenile may benefit from them.
- Regimented Juvenile Training Program or Bootcamp: Juveniles are placed in a controlled environment that attempts to assert self and community respect as well as demonstrate the value of work and education.
- Juvenile Intensive Supervision Program: Juveniles are placed in community based settings and provided highly structured probation supervision. This placement is reserved for juveniles found to have a high risk of recommitting an offense.
- Juvenile Community Review Board: This community review board places juveniles in residential community placements that provide services such as education, treatment, and rehabilitation.
- Parental Responsibility Training Program: Parents are trained in child development and are given resources to improve family ties and role modeling.
- Intensive Family Preservation Program: Individualized group counseling for juveniles and their families. These sessions focus on improving child raising practices, building family strength, and reducing stress.
If the sentencing requires placement at any of the above programs that are out of the home, other than placement with the department of human services, then the court will review within 90 days whether continued placement is in the best interests of the child and the community.
The Law Office of Ross Koplin provides representation in juvenile delinquency cases. To learn more about how to best defend against juvenile delinquency charges contact Ross Koplin for a free consultation at (303) 831-8924.