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Juvenile Court - Delinquent and Child in Need of Services (CHINS) Cases

Delinquent/Child in Need of Services Cases

What is a “delinquent child”?

A child who has committed an act that is considered a crime for an adult and is in need of treatment and rehabilitation.  This also includes children who are subject to the Interstate Compact on Juveniles such as runaways from another state.

What is an “child in need of services”?

A child who has exhibited behavior or conduct that is only applicable to a child because of their age, such as truancy from school, disobedience of parental commands, or using tobacco, and is in need of treatment and rehabilitation.  These cases are referred to the juvenile court for diversion services until July 31, 2022 and thereafter will be referred to the local human services zone for intake and connection to services.

When your child has been arrested or is being referred to juvenile court

In North Dakota, most youth arrested or cited for delinquent behavior are quickly released by law enforcement to a parent or guardian to return home until notified by the juvenile court of the next step in the process.  Juvenile court intake staff decide based on the nature of the offense(s) referred and any prior history with the court whether to schedule a diversion, an informal adjustment conference, or refer the case to the county state’s attorney for consideration of a petition to the court.

When a parent, guardian or other responsible adult cannot be found to release a youth to after an arrest, a youth may stay a nonsecure attendant care facility on a temporary basis until a parent or guardian can be located to effectuate the release.

Some youth who pose a public safety risk and have committed a serious offense may be detained at a secure juvenile detention center.  Parents will be notified of the first court appearance, called a detention hearing.

When your child has been arrested and detained at a juvenile detention center

A child charged with a delinquent act can only be held in a locked, secure juvenile detention center for the following reasons:

  1. The child is alleged to have committed an offense that if committed by an adult would constitute a felony against person, felony weapon, or felony drug distribution.
  2. The child has a record of failure to appear in court for court dates or there is probable cause to believe that the child will flee the jurisdiction of the court.
  3. The child has violated the terms of detention release on home confinement or electronic monitoring.
  4. There is oral or written verification that the child is an alleged delinquent child sought for an offense in another jurisdiction or that the child left a juvenile detention facility without authorization.
  5. The child is an out-of-state runaway subject to the rules of the interstate commission on juveniles.
  6. The child meets criteria for secure detention or an override on the detention screening tool.

The first court appearance is a detention hearing to be held within 24 hours of the time of entering detention excluding weekends and holidays.  Parents or guardians are notified of the first detention hearing by telephone call from the local juvenile court office.  All youth charged with a delinquency receive court appointed counsel regardless of income.

As an alternative to detention, a child can be held in an unlocked or nonsecure facility such as attendant care or shelter care.

Does my child need a lawyer?

Delinquency Cases: A lawyer will be appointed for every child in a delinquency proceeding in which a petition has been filed regardless of income.  A child age 14 and older can choose to waive their right to a lawyer but only if they do so on the record and the waiver is knowingly and voluntarily given. The court shall require reimbursement of appointed counsel under statute NDCC 27-20.4-12(3).  The reimbursement responsibility applies to the person who has legal care, custody, or control of the child. A child may elect to have a lawyer in an informal adjustment meeting.  (27-20.2-12(5) N.D.C.C.)

Child in Need of Services (CHINS) Cases:  There is no right to counsel in a child in need of services cases (truancy, unruly behavior or tobacco use or possession under age 14) as these cases are only diverted to services and do not receive informal adjustments or formal court hearings.

What is Diversion?

Diversion means that the case is diverted away from the usual court process to another agency or program for services. Parents are notified by diversion either by a letter from juvenile court referring a family to services or with a letter inviting them and the youth to a meeting.  Diversion meetings may include short assessments in order to best guide and match the youth to the proper service.  Participation in diversion meetings is voluntary.  Discuss with the juvenile court officer what programs and services are available in your jurisdiction.

What is an Informal Adjustment?

Before a formal petition is filed, the director of juvenile court or other juvenile court officer assigned, may choose to give counsel and advice to the parties and impose conditions for the conduct and control of a child in an Informal Adjustment.  An Informal Adjustment is an informal meeting where a juvenile court officer meets with the child and parents to accept admission of the delinquent conduct and come to an agreement regarding a resolution of the case such as an assessment of the youth’s risks and needs, probation case management, community service, restitution to a victim, educational classes, counseling, or any other appropriate plan that is related to the child’s unique risk and needs assessment. 

If the child denies the alleged delinquent conduct, the case is forwarded to the county state’s attorney for possible petition via the formal process.  The youth and family are notified if the county state’s attorney declines to go forward with the case or if the case is filed and a court hearing scheduled.

What is an initial hearing or formal hearing?

An initial hearing is the first appearance in court before a judge or referee on a delinquency petition.  The court will explain to the youth and family their legal rights under the Juvenile Court Act.

At a formal hearing, adjudication hearing or trial witnesses may be called and the judge or referee determines the outcome after hearing recommendations from those involved regarding the best means to treat and rehabilitate the child including the results of the child’s risks and needs assessment or any other appropriate assessment or screenings.

What are My Child’s Rights in Delinquency Proceeding?

  1. Reasonable notice of the proceedings.
  2. To be informed of the contents of the petition or informal adjustment.
  3. Have a copy of the petition or informal adjustment and have it read to you if necessary.
  4. Representation by an attorney at any stage of the proceeding is the financial responsibility of the parent and if you cannot afford a lawyer, one can be appointed to your child at public expense. Parents are entitled to their own attorney at the detention and disposition phase only of a formal delinquent proceeding.
  5. Confront and cross-examine a witness who testifies against you in a formal proceeding.
  6. Be informed of the disposition possibilities and length of time a dispositional order may be made.
  7. Appeal a decision of the court.

Are Hearings Closed to the Public?

Juvenile hearings in North Dakota are closed to the public, but be aware that victims of juvenile crimes are entitled to attend juvenile court delinquency hearings and informal adjustments and are authorized by law to be informed of the outcome of the case.

Juvenile Record Destruction

Most juvenile court delinquency records are destroyed at the child’s 18th birthday and conclusion of all juvenile court requirements but some types of records, for example records regarding sexual offenses, are kept for additional time periods, even though these records are still closed to public access.  It is possible to have your child’s juvenile court record destroyed earlier than the standard record retention policy.  Speak with your child’s assigned juvenile court officer or attorney about how to make this request once the delinquency case is successfully closed.  See also Rule 19, N.D.R.J.P. )

Victims of Juvenile Delinquency

Restitution collection is challenging with young people as some are unable to work due to age and child labor laws and others are unable due to placement outside of the home for treatment and rehabilitation.  In some cases, victims elect to pursue a civil action against parents of a delinquent child as a more viable means of being repaid for losses. 

What Rights do Victims of Juvenile Delinquency have in Juvenile Court?

Victims and witnesses of crimes committed by juveniles are entitled to the same rights in juvenile delinquency proceedings as in any other adult criminal proceeding.  Victims have the right to attend either an informal adjustment meeting or a formal court hearing.  Informal adjustment meetings are held by juvenile court officers and victims are informed of the date and time of these meetings by the juvenile court office.  Formal hearings are held before a judge or judicial referee and victims are informed of the time and date of formal hearings by the county state’s attorney or the county victim witness advocate. Victims have the right to make a victim impact statement and to submit a restitution claim for damages related to the delinquent act.  Victims have the right to know the outcome of the case.

How is the amount of restitution determined?

In cases where a petition has been filed, the court determines the amount of restitution owed and includes the determination in an order.  A juvenile court officer may be asked to investigate and recommend a restitution amount. In cases where an informal adjustment conference is held, the juvenile court officer, the youth and parents, along with the victim if they choose to participate, come to an agreement about restitution.  If an agreement cannot be reached, the matter may be referred to the county state’s attorney for consideration of a formal petition.  At any stage (diversion, informal adjustment or formal hearing) a case may also be referred to offender accountability conferencing to determine restitution.  If the court, juvenile court officer, or offender accountability conferencing determines that there is an inability to pay all or part of the restitution owed, assignment of community service hours may be considered.

Can parents be held responsible for damages caused by a delinquent child?

Yes, North Dakota law allows for parental restitution to be assessed in certain circumstances.  The law requires that the court hold a hearing on the issue and that notice be given to all interested parties as to the nature and amount of parental restitution being sought.  There are certain factors that the court must consider such as the ability of the child and parents to pay monetary restitution, whether ordering parental restitution would detract from the child’s treatment, rehabilitation or welfare, and the number of previous delinquent acts, if any, previously committed by the child.  Parental responsibility for restitution is limited under the North Dakota juvenile court act to those damages directly related to the delinquent act and expenses actually incurred.  Further the amount ordered in parental restitution cannot exceed five thousand dollars.  There are other civil remedies available to victims.

What is Offender Accountability Conferencing?

Offender Accountability Conferences bring together the child offender, the victim, key supports and a trained facilitator to discuss the impact of the juvenile’s behavior and ways by which that young person can repair the harm caused.  The North Dakota courts contract with the Consensus Council, a private nonprofit agency, to provide offender accountability conferencing along with other restorative justice juvenile services and programs.

Community Probation Services

What is Juvenile Probation?

Juvenile probation is the oldest and most widely used method through which a range of services are delivered to youth who are referred to the courts as the result of delinquent behavior.  Youth on probation reside in the community at their own home.  A risk and needs assessment (YASI) serves as the instrument which guides the youth’s case plan. 

Probation is a period of time in which a juvenile court officer is assigned to oversee some conditions imposed by the court or agreed to in an informal adjustment agreement.  Conditions of probation typically include law-abiding behavior, school attendance, and successful completion of assigned classes, programs, evaluations, or counseling.  Youth are matched to services and programs based on their own unique risk and needs.

What is a YASI?

North Dakota uses a risk and needs assessments called the  Youth Assessment Screening Inventory (YASI) to assess each child’s risk of further delinquent behavior and needs needing to be address to positively impact not only the child, but the parents, family and entire community.  Other assessments may be used to identify mental health, trauma history or human trafficking.  This holistic approach to reducing delinquency seeks to address multiple causal factors which contribute to a youth’s misconduct and referral to the courts.

Things you can do if your child is on probation in the community:

You need clear information about what has happened and what is expected in order to effectively participate in the process.  Please be sure to ask questions about anything you do not understand.  Help your child meet the conditions and access the services required to complete probation.  Be positive.  Encourage your youth to do well and to successfully complete probation.  Help your child change behaviors.  If your child is struggling, ask for help.  Participate in your child’s education.  Take an active interest in your child’s education and work closely with the school.  Stay in communication with your child’s assigned juvenile court officer (JCO).  Ask your child’s attorney and assigned JCO how you can help contribute to your child’s successful completion of probation.