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What happens at a New York juvenile dispositional hearing?

Juveniles are often unable to anticipate the long-term consequences of their actions in the way an adult can. Moreover, most juveniles simply do not have the maturity that adults have. This may lead to situations where a juvenile is being accused of committing an illegal act. When a juvenile in New York is accused of a crime, depending on the nature of the crime and the juvenile's age, he or she may not be tried as an adult but instead will go through a Family Court fact-finding hearing and possibly a dispositional hearing.

The purpose of the dispositional hearing is to determine whether or not the juvenile is a "juvenile delinquent," meaning that he or she needs to be supervised, needs treatment or needs confinement. At the hearing, the judge will consider testimony from the juvenile's probation officer about the juvenile's previous behavior. The juvenile's parents or others who have information that is important to the juvenile's case may also provide testimony at the dispositional hearing.

The juvenile's probation officer can offer his or her recommendation that the juvenile should be allowed to live at home. This can be with certain conditions, but without court supervision. Alternatively, it can be deemed that supervision by the Probation Department is necessary as a condition of letting the juvenile live at home. In more serious cases, the judge will determine the juvenile needs to live away from home, in a facility.

All of that being said, even if there is a finding that the juvenile engaged in an illegal act, the judge could still determine that the juvenile is not in need of confinement, treatment or supervision. If this is the case, the petition against the juvenile will be dismissed.

Juveniles in New York have their whole lives ahead of them and should not have their lives tarnished at a tender age due to accusations of youthful indiscretions. While they may not be tried in adult court, juveniles in New York who are accused of a crime may still want to have an attorney experienced in juvenile law matters help advocate for them. A strong criminal defense could help clear the accused's name, helping him or her avoid serious penalties.

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