TYPES OF HEARINGS
There are many different types of hearings in a court case, below are a few of the most common ones.
Within 48 hours of a juvenile being arrested and detained a detention hearing will be held to determine if the juvenile should remain in custody or be released to his parents.
There are two parts to the detention hearing, the judge will first decide if there is probable cause, then look at the detention factors. To determine probable cause the judge will listen to the evidence presented by a law enforcement officer or other witness who will testify to the facts of the case. The judge will then decide if the juvenile probably did the crime he is accused of committing. Probable cause has a much lower standard than a finding of guilty in a trial.
If the judge finds that there was probable cause to arrest, the judge will look at the following factors:
- the nature of the offense
- the child's background and history
- and other information relevant to the child's conduct or condition.
Based on these factors the judge will then decide if the juvenile will go back to the detention center or home with his parent or guardian. If the judge decides that the juvenile will go back to the detention center, the juvenile may be allowed to go to an alternative to detention such as a treatment center or a foster home.
Occasionally a defendant will have problems that may cause his attorney or the court to question his competency to stand trial. If that happens the defendant will be given a mental evaluation by a doctor who specializes in that type of testing.
The doctor will make a report and that report will be given to the defense attorney, the prosecutor, and the judge. If any of the parties want to ask the doctor about his report, that person will ask for a Competency Hearing.
At the hearing the doctor will be present and the prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge will all have an opportunity to ask him questions. Either side can call other witnesses who they believe can help the judge decide if the defendant is competent, however usually the doctor is the only witness. At the end of the testimony the prosecutor and the defense attorney will each be allowed to make a final argument. The judge will then make a ruling and tell the parties if the juvenile is competent.
If the juvenile is competent, the court process will keep going. If the defendant is found not competent the court process will stop. However, even if the juvenile is found not to be competent at that time, there may be a time when the juvenile will be competent and the court process will resume.
Juveniles can be tried as adults in Circuit Court after a Transfer Hearing. Defendants that are transferred to Circuit Court and found guilty are called Youthful Offenders; you may hear people use this term to mean any defendant transferred to Circuit Court, even before he or she is found guilty.
The Transfer Process can differ depending on the county where the hearing is being held. The list below is a general path it may follow.
2. Pre-Trial Conference
3. Transfer Motion Filed by the
4. Transfer Hearing
5. If transferred, the case will be passed to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office
6. If not transferred the case will remain in Juvenile court and an offer will be made by the prosecutor or the case will be set for an Adjudicatory Hearing (a trial)
THE TRANSFER PROCESS
First the prosecutor in Juvenile Court must talk about the case with the Commonwealth’s Attorney and then decide if the defendant should be transferred to Circuit Court. If they want to transfer the case, the prosecutor will make a motion to have the defendant tried as an adult, and set a time and date for a hearing. Sometimes the Juvenile Court prosecutor will hold the hearing and sometimes a prosecutor from Circuit Court will hold the hearing.
The motion will say that one of the following is met:
- The defendant was fourteen years or older at the time he committed the crime and is charged with a capital offense, Class A felony, or Class B felony
- The defendant was age sixteen or older at the time she committed the crime and is charged with a Class C or Class D felony and has already been found guilty of a felony that she committed when she was age sixteen or older
- The defendant was fourteen years or older at the time he committed the crime and is charged with a felony where he used a gun or other firearm, it doesn’t matter if the gun was loaded or even a working gun (See Supreme Court Case Lashawn Johnson v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, BB guns)
- The defendant is charged with a felony committed before juvenile defendants eighteenth birthday but is now eighteen.
On the date of the hearing the defendant will be called into court with his parent or guardian and will stand before the judge. The defense attorney and prosecutor will also be present along with other court personnel, the general public will not be allowed into the court room.
A transfer hearing is broken into two parts; the first part is the Preliminary Hearing. During this time the judge will decide (a) if there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed, (b) that the defendant was the one who committed the crime, and (c) that the defendant meets the criteria the prosecutor put in the transfer motion. Testimony will be put on by the prosecutor, usually through a law enforcement officer and witnesses to the crime. The defense will then have a chance to have witnesses testify, including the defendant. Many times the defense will not call any witnesses.
If the judge decides that there is probable cause, the judge will then go through the following questions:
1. Is this a serious crime?
2. Is this a crime against people? There is more weight given to the crimes against people than against property.
3. Is the child mature?
4. Does the child have a prior criminal record?
5. Is it in the best interest of the defendant to be tried as an adult? Is it in the best interest of the community for the defendant to be tried as an adult?
6. Will the community be better protected by the defendant being tried as an adult?
7. Should the defendant be tried as an adult rather than using the rehabilitation services available from the Department of Juvenile Justice?
8. Is the defendant in a gang?
The judge only has to find that the answer to two or more of these questions is yes in order to be able to transfer the defendant to adult court.
At the end of the hearing each side will be allowed to give one last argument to the judge. After all of the arguments have been made it is up to the judge to make a final decision whether to transfer the defendant to Circuit Court to be tried as an adult, or keep the defendant in Juvenile Court.
Defendants who are sent to Circuit Court will have their cases transferred from the County Attorney’s office to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. The case will then proceed in the same way as an adult case.
When a defendant comes to court he or she is given rules to follow. If the defendant does not follow the rules set by the judge, that defendant is in contempt of the court's rules.
A contempt hearing generally starts with the prosecutor receiving information that a defendant is not following the rules set by the judge. The prosecutor will prepare a contempt motion and file it with the court to set a day and time for the hearing.
On the day of the hearing the prosecutor, juvenile, and defense attorney will all stand in front of the judge. First the prosecutor will call their witnesses, all witnesses will be asked to raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth. All witnesses are expected to tell the truth and can be held in contempt or charged with a crime for lying.
Next the defense attorney will call their witnesses, they are not required to have any witnesses, and many times do not.
The judge will consider the testimony and after each side has a chance to make a brief argument, the judge will make a ruling. If the defendant is found to have violated the court orders and is held in contempt, the judge will sentence the defendant. That means that the judge will decide on the punishment for the defendant. That punishment could be time in the detention center, community service, probated time in the detention center, or other punishments the judge thinks are appropriate.
Defendants can also choose to waive the hearing. When they do this, they are agreeing that the things in the affidavit are true. No witnesses will have to testify and the judge will make a ruling and sentence based only on the information in the affidavit.
When the parties can’t agree on the restitution amount, they will hold a restitution hearing. At the hearing the juvenile will be brought into the courtroom with his parents. The prosecutor will bring in witnesses, usually the victims of the crime, and those witnesses will tell the judge what was stolen, broken, or damaged and how much they are owed for the items. The witnesses may have receipts or other documents that they will show the judge to prove how much they are owed. The defense attorney will have an opportunity to have witnesses that may have a different opinion of the value of the items. The defense attorney may not have any witnesses at a restitution hearing.
After the witnesses have spoken, the defense attorney will make an argument to the judge telling her what the defendant believes he owes in restitution, then the prosecutor will make an argument telling the judge why she should believe what the victim said is owed. Finally the judge will make her ruling deciding how much the juvenile will have to pay. The judge will then give the juvenile time to pay and set up monthly installment payments. If the juvenile does not pay the money back he can charged with contempt of court, and will have to come back before the judge to explain why the restitution was not paid, and if found in contempt of court he will have additional punishment and can even be sent to the detention center.