What is an adjudication hearing?

Answer

According to Shouse California Law Group, an adjudication hearing is a trial occurring in a juvenile court. Adjudication hearings usually do not involve juries, and all decisions are left to the judge presiding over the case. Adjudication hearings are somewhat more relaxed than adult trials to accommodate the special circumstances involving the minor.

The Shouse Group explains that though juries are not involved, adjudication hearings function similarly to jury trials in a number of important respects. The juvenile is encouraged to have his counsel present. Both sides are entitled to call witnesses to support their cases, and witnesses are sometimes compelled to testify via subpoena. During the trial, the prosecution is obligated to prove that the juvenile is guilty of the alleged crimes beyond all reasonable doubt. If the judge concludes that the prosecution has not proven its case sufficiently, she has the ability to throw out the case.

If the juvenile is found guilty at the adjudication hearing, the trial is sometimes extended to allow for sentencing. For example, Virginia's Prince William County Court System calls for a disposition hearing to follow upon the adjudication hearing. This allows the judge to review all pertinent factors related to the individual and the crime, including his “background, prior offenses and personal history.” Any and all of these factors weigh upon the corrective measures adopted by the judge.

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