Parents are generally not familiar with Washington’s juvenile justice system unless their children are arrested. It can feel overwhelming trying to navigate the juvenile court process without a solid understanding of how things work or what comes next, and it can also be easy to make mistakes along the way. Here are a few basic steps that parents can expect their child to face.

After a child is arrested or otherwise referred to juvenile court, an intake officer will evaluate the case and decide what — if any — action is required. Aside from taking no further action, the intake officer may decide that the child should face a formal hearing in juvenile court or refer him or her to a social service agency. Some minors are even detained in juvenile correction facilities.

When a child’s case heads to juvenile court, he or she may deny the allegations. If so, a hearing takes place, which is much like criminal trials for adults. A minor also has the right to counsel at hearings. One of the most obvious differences between juvenile hearings and adult criminal trials is that juries are not involved with juvenile matters. Instead, the final decision is made by the judge.

A judge will either dismiss the case or rule that a child is a delinquent. There are several different outcomes that may follow the latter decision, including probation or spending time in a juvenile correction facility. Since there is so much on the line, parents who are eager to help their children through the juvenile court process might need some help of their own. Speaking with an attorney who is familiar with Washington juvenile law may be helpful for some of those parents.