Juvenile Services

A child who breaks the law may enter a complex world of procedures, places and people called the Juvenile Justice System. In Texas, the ages of juvenile justice jurisdiction are 10 through 16.

The Juvenile Department will provide services through the use of the least restrictive environment for rehabilitation of the child and public safety


For minor violations, the police may simply warn the child and parents. However, when further action is needed to protect the public, or to prevent further offenses, the case is forwarded to the Juvenile Probation Department.

Intake is the process where juvenile probation officials review the facts of the case and determine the appropriate action to take based on the law.

Juvenile probation officials have several options when handling a juvenile referral. A juvenile case may be resolved through a supervisory caution, deferred prosecution, or by formal juvenile court action. When a juvenile is taken into custody, the juvenile officials decide where the juvenile will stay pending juvenile court proceedings. If juveniles are not released to the custody of parents or guardians, they are detained in a secure juvenile detention center.

All cases involving a felony or a misdemeanor offense involving violence to a person or use or possession of a weapon are immediately sent to the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor's office either handles the case, or refers it back to juvenile probation.


If a juvenile is placed in a detention facility, the juvenile court must hold a hearing on the matter within two working days. If the juvenile is detained on a Friday or Saturday, the detention hearing must be held on the first working day after the detention. At this initial hearing, and subsequent hearings held every ten working days, the judge must determine if there are sufficient grounds or good causes for continued detention.

Victims have the right to have their safety taken into consideration before a juvenile is released. However, detention hearings may take place before the victim has been contacted. You may call the crime victim assistance coordinator for the status of the case and information about victim's rights.

Some of the youngest, least serious (Class A and Class B Misdemeanor) offenders get a second chance to prove that no further action is needed to prevent future illegal activity. Those who succeed Deferred Prosecution program avoid a formal court hearing and continued involvement with authorities. During that time, the Juvenile must meet certain terms or the case could be referred to the prosecutor's office for subsequent court action. Making restitution to the victim or performing community service may be included in the juvenile's deferred prosecution program.
Source: Texas Juvenile Probation Statistical Report, 1998
Adjudicated Probation:
After going to court for an adjudication hearing on the facts, a judge may order this form of community-based supervision for a specified period of time, based on such reasonable and lawful terms as the court may determine. While on adjudicated probation, the offender may be required to participate in any program deemed appropriate, such as an intensive supervision program or residential placement.
Adjudication Hearing:
Hearing held after the announcement hearing where it is determined whether the child committed the offense named in the petition; the juvenile equivalent of a criminal trial.
Announcement Hearing:
The first hearing in the Juvenile Court process at which time the judge determines if the Court needs to appoint an attorney, or if the family can retain their own.
A complaint to a higher Court urging that it overturn the decision of a lower Court.
Certification Hearing:
Hearing held to determine whether the juvenile court will waive its jurisdiction so that an accused juvenile felony offender can be prosecuted as an adult. Certification is permissive and not mandatory under Texas law. Depending upon the type of felony committed, a juvenile as young as either 14 or 15 years of age can be certified to stand trial as an adult.
In Texas, a person who is 10 years of age or older and under 17 years of age or a person who is 17 years of age or older and under 18 years of age who is alleged or found to have engaged in delinquent conduct or Conduct in need of supervision as a result of acts committed before becoming 17 years of age.
A child committed to the care, control and custody of the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). All commitments to TYC, except under the determinate sentencing act, are for an indeterminate term not to extend beyond the child's 21st birthday.
Commitment Performance Target:
The target number of juveniles a probation department should recommend annually to the juvenile courts for commitment to the Texas Youth Commission.
Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision (CINS):
Public intoxication, truancy, running away from home, fineable-only offenses that have been transferred to a juvenile court from a municipal or justice court, inhalant abuse, expulsion for violating a school disciplinary code, or a violation of a court order under the Services to At Risk Youth Programs.
Deferred Prosecution:
A voluntary alternative to adjudication where the child, parent(s), prosecutor and the juvenile probation department agree upon probation conditions. Deferred prosecution can last up to six months. If the child violates any of the probation conditions, the state may elect to proceed with formal court adjudication.
Delinquent Conduct:
Violation of any law punishable by incarceration (except traffic laws), violation of juvenile court order entered under Section 54.04 or 54.05 of the Texas Family Code (except by truancy, running away, or fineable only offenses), contempt of magistrate orders, DWI and other related offenses and third offense driving under the influence of alcohol by a minor.
A juvenile probation department organized in one or more counties and supervised by one or more juvenile boards.
Detention Hearing:

Hearing held to determine if a child will be held in detention pending future disposition of the case. A child shall be detained only upon an Order of the Juvenile Court or an alternative magistrate.

Determinate Sentence:
Sentence imposed on a juvenile offender for up to 40 years. The juvenile will first serve time in TYC but may later be transferred to adult prison and become subject to adult parole laws. A determinate sentence is only available for certain types of felony offenses.
Directive to Apprehend:
An order issued by a juvenile court judge upon recommendation by a peace officer or juvenile probation officer to have a child apprehended and detained. A directive to apprehend must be based on probable cause.
Disposition Hearing:
Hearing held after adjudication where the judge decides what probation conditions will be imposed upon the child (and the child's family) or whether to commit the child to the Texas Youth Commission.
Diversionary Placement:
Residential placement program for juvenile referrals using the state Community Correction Assistance Fund. This placement is intended to be the last alternative to sending the offender to the Texas Youth Commission.
Guardian Ad Litem:
An adult appointed by the Court to represent a child's interest in a judicial proceeding. A guardian ad litem is appointed when the child's parent is either not present or is incapable of making decisions in the child's best interest.
Ideal Commitment:
A commitment to TYC of a child whose Progressive Sanctions Guideline Level is a six or a seven.
Intensive Supervision Program:
Type of probation that is a cost-effective means of diverting juvenile offenders from committal to the Texas Youth Commission. Services provided vary from department to department, but common elements include reduced caseloads by specially trained probation officers and more frequent contacts between the juvenile and his or her probation officer.
Juvenile Board:
A body established by law to provide juvenile probation services to a county or counties.
Juvenile Court:
A court designated under Section 51.04 of the Texas Family Code, or by the other law, to exercise jurisdiction over proceedings under Title 3 of the Texas Family Code.
Modification Hearing:
Hearing held when a child has been placed on court ordered probation and due to a change in circumstances, the original disposition requires amending. The disposition order is modified to reflect the change.
Document filed by the District Attorney containing the child's name, date of birth, address, parent's name, and alleged offense.
Progressive Sanctions Guidelines:
Statutory guidelines for juvenile dispositions designed to give uniformity and predictability to juvenile punishments. There are seven progressively more restrictive sanction levels under the guidelines. An offender's sanction level will be based on the severity of the offense, the offender's prior history, individual circumstances and needs as well as the effectiveness of prior intervention.
Referral (also called formal referral):
Any occasion when a child is brought to a juvenile probation department's attention for alleged delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision (CINS) and some contact by visit or interview occurs between the department and the juvenile or parents.
Residential Placement:

Child is placed in a non-secure facility (i.e., foster homes, alcohol and drug treatment facilities, halfway houses, MHMR facilities, etc.) or a secure facility (i.e., boot camps, secure county, state, or private facilities, etc.) either with or without a court proceeding.

The juvenile who is the subject of a petition.
Revocation Hearing:
Hearing held to revoke a probation order and give a new disposition when a child has violated the condition of his/her probation.
The closure of juvenile records from inspection made upon petition to the court, or upon the court's own motion.
Status Offenses:
Juvenile offenses that are not criminal when committed by adults; e.g. runaway or truancy.
Advises the child's parents/guardian/custodian of when and where the child's court hearing is to take place (date, time and location). Summons is served to both the child and the parents(s) with copies of the petition attached.
Supervisory Caution:
Descriptive term for a wide variety of summary, nonjudicial dispositions that intake may make of a case. This may include referral of the child to a social agency or a community based first offender program run by law enforcement, contacting parents to inform them of the child's activities, or simply warning the child about his or her activities.
An order issued by a Court commanding that a certain act or acts be done or not done.
Writ of Habeas Corpus:
An extraordinary writ ordering a public officer holding a person in confinement to bring the person before the Court. This is used to secure the release from custody of minors or adults being held illegally.