Prosecutors in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings

The Prosecuting Agency

The prosecution of juvenile justice cases is typically led by a distinct office or agency from that of adult criminal prosecutions. In substance, the prosecution is the legal adversary of the juvenile delinquency lawyer. Typically, the District Attorney's Office for the county in which an offense allegedly took place leads the prosecution of ordinary criminal charges against adults. This Could be the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office (Kings County), or any local District Attorney's Office throughout New York City, Rockland County, Westchester County or elsewhere in New York State. The Attorney General's Office for the State of New York will also lead prosecutions in certain, specific areas, such as welfare fraud and practicing medicine without a license. However, the prosecution of juveniles charged with criminal offenses is usually led by the County Attorney's Office outside of New York City such as Rockland and Westchester, or the Corporation Counsel in New York City. These offices are analogous to each other, and essentially act as the all-purpose attorneys for the county or city in which they operate, as opposed to a county District Attorney's Office that is responsible solely for criminal prosecutions. The County Attorney or Corporation Counsel handles all kinds of matters for the county or city, such as commercial law, lawsuits against the municipality, and other municipal activity such as housing development. In addition to these numerous departments and responsibilities, these offices also typically have a department responsible for handling juvenile justice prosecutions, but they should not be confused with the local District Attorney's Office.

The Role of the Prosecutor

A prosecutor's role in a Juvenile Delinquency proceeding is somewhat reduced from their role of a District Attorney's Office in an adult criminal case. In adult criminal cases in New York City, Assistant District Attorneys are the one who are primarily responsible for screening new arrests and determining whether criminal or other charges should be brought. Outside of New York City, in counties such as Rockland and Westchester, this screening and charging process and decision is typically handled by the police department that made the arrest of the individual. The responsibility of screening of cases, and the initial determination as to whether a case has merit and should proceed before a court is shifted to a great degree in the context of Juvenile Delinquency proceedings.

Instead of traditional law enforcement agencies, such as the District Attorney's Office or a police department, the Probation Department typically takes the lead in the screening and charging decisions of juvenile justice cases. This is critical, as a probation officer is likely to approach a case with a very different mindset than that of a prosecutor. However, the prosecutor from the County Attorney's Office or Corporation Counsel still has a significant and critical role in the prosecution of a juvenile justice case. As with an adult criminal case, the prosecutor is primarily responsible for investigating the case, identifying and contacting potential witnesses, negotiating with the child's defense attorney, filing and responding to motions such as motions to dismiss and motions requesting certain pretrial hearings, and conducting the trial itself - calling witnesses, presenting evidence, and arguing for a finding of juvenile delinquency and for punitive measures.

What cannot be overlooked, however, is even if the Department of Probation determines that the delinquency or “criminal” proceeding should proceed, the prosecutor, such as an attorney with New York City’s Corporation Counsel, has the ability to resolve a case before formally filing charges and the child finds him or herself standing before a judge. Just as with an adult criminal case, if the prosecutor and defendant, via the child's attorney, can reach an agreement on how the case should be handled and resolved, and the judge approves of that agreement, a settlement can be had and a trial avoided. This is often a desirable outcome, as it provides certainty for the child and often a fair outcome. However, trials are most certainly necessary in certain circumstances, and it is imperative that a child have representation by an attorney who is not only an experienced negotiator, but also a skilled trial attorney for those situations where a mutually agreeable outcome cannot be reached.

When a child or youth is accused of a crime, their entire future is at risk. Be smart, prepared and diligent in your effort to protect him or her from a damaged life or even incarceration. Because an alleged mistake a child makes today should not define him or her forever, contact the New York criminal lawyers, juvenile delinquency and youthful offender attorneys, and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC to put your child’s interests, rights and future first.

Call the Former Manhattan Prosecutors and Juvenile Defense Lawyers at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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