Acts which would be criminal if committed by an adult are called acts of juvenile delinquency when committed by a juvenile under the age of eighteen. Cases against juveniles proceed through the system much like cases against adults. Yet, there are several differences in terminology. Juveniles are charged with a juvenile petition, which alleges an act of juvenile delinquency, instead of an arrest warrant or indictment. Juveniles are then arraigned by the juvenile court referee/Magistrate Juveniles who “plead guilty” to an act of juvenile delinquency admit the allegations in the petition. Juveniles who “plead not guilty” deny the allegations in the petition. A preliminary hearing may be set for hearing before the referee/Magistrate. If the case is deemed to be provable and serious, it will be referred to a Circuit Judge, who will set an adjudicatory hearing, which will result in a finding that the juvenile is or is not a juvenile delinquent. Following adjudication, a dispositional hearing will be set. At that time, the judge will determine the appropriate disposition for the case. Dispositions may include, probation, residential placement, or counseling, as the judge determines is appropriate.
On occasion, jurisdiction for cases involving juveniles who have committed particularly serious offenses or who have a history of violence may be transferred to an adult court. This requires the filing of a petition by the prosecuting attorney and a finding by the court that the juvenile justice system cannot help the juvenile.