Purpose clauses, 2016

  • No clause

  • Parens patriae

  • Due process era

  • Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

  • Developmental Approach

Utah’s purpose clause, entitled “Establishment of juvenile court—organization and status of court” retains parens patriae language and phrases from the Legislative Guide for Drafting Family and Juvenile Court Acts (1969) of the due process era.  It mentions purposes..."to promote public safety...and consistent with the ends of justice, act in the best interests of the minor in all cases and preserve and strengthen family ties."  Since another purpose of the court is to “promote...individual accountability by the imposition of appropriate sanctions on persons who have committed acts in violation of law to help prevent future unlawful conduct and development of responsible citizenship," it meets criteria for BARJ, though accountability to victims is not expressly mentioned.

UT ST §78A-6-102

Intake and diversion, 2016

Initial intake and diversion decision is at the discretion of the juvenile court intake officer.

In Utah, law enforcement officers (LEO's) have discretion to handle any class B misdemeanor and lesser offenses without juvenile court involvement and may refer juveniles to a youth court diversion program. When an LEO takes a child into custody, if detained, a referral must be made to the juvenile court within 72 hours. If released home with a notice to appear before the court (via citation in lieu of petition, for Class B or C misdemeanor/infractions), a referral must be made within 5 days, or if returned home without a summons, referrals are due within 10 days. For felonious and certain weapons-related matters, LEO’s can only release a child home with a written promise to appear before the court. When arriving at detention or shelter, the transporting adult must give the youth corrections facility staff information about jurisdiction and reason the minor wasn’t released. Designated facility staff can make the decision to return the child home with a promise to appear before the court, place the child on home detention, change the placement (secure, non-secure) and must notify the court. A detention hearing is held within 48 hours.

Otherwise, when a delinquency-related complaint is received, the court probation officer (JPO) can screen the matter out for legal insufficiency, provide information and referral services, pursue non-judicial court handling with conditional monitoring, authorize filing a petition for judicial intervention, or request that the county or district attorney (DA) file the petition (depending on the jurisdiction). The JPO can negotiate and seek written agreement from the child and parent/s for non-judicial adjustment. Conditions can include a financial penalty, victim restitution, compensatory service, counseling or treatment, substance abuse programs, restrictions on activities and associations, and/or referral to a ‘youth court’ diversion program. Following successful completion of conditions, the case can be closed. If contested, the matter must be presented for judicial review.

Once the judge adjudicates the juvenile is within its jurisdiction, findings of fact are not always necessary before particular dispositions are approved and ordered. Judges can order sanctions as alternatives to detention for up to 30 days, which can be stayed or suspended pending successful completion of formal probation and/or protective supervision terms. The child may also be permitted to serve in the National Guard in lieu of other sanctions.  Note that Utah passed amendments effective 5/17, 8/17 and 7/18 that will make changes. 

No statutory time limit/s for court diversions exist.

In Utah, no time limits are specified.

Courtroom shackling, 2015

Restricted by legislature

Utah statute UT ST § 78A-6-122 requires that a juvenile may not be restrained during a court proceeding unless authorized by the rules of the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council Rule 4-905  states that a minor present in a juvenile courtroom shall not be restrained unless the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that restraints are necessary:

  1. to prevent physical harm to self/third party;
  2. [because the juvenile] presents a flight risk;
  3. is currently in jail/prison or a secure facility;
  4. the seriousness of the charged offense warrants restraints; [or]
  5. [another] good cause.

Any person with an interest in the case may move the court to restrain the minor during court; and every person with direct interest in the case has the right to be heard (to contest). If the court orders restraints, the matter must be reconsidered at each future hearing. Ex parte communications are ‘not prohibited’, but the judge/commissioner must notify all other parties ASAP and provide an opportunity to respond. 

Competency, 2015

In Utah, the Juvenile Code (of statutes) has a sub-part devoted to juvenile competency. Delinquency proceedings must be stayed while the evaluation is pending. Formal evaluations must be conducted by a mental health examiner with experience in juvenile forensic evaluations, juvenile brain development, intellectual disability (if indicated), and not otherwise involved in the child’s current treatment. If the judge finds the juvenile is “not competent to proceed” (due to a mental disorder, intellectual disability, or related condition) and may attain competency, the Department of Human Services is required to develop a plan of treatment, which is reviewed by the court. If competency is not achieved within one year, the delinquency petition is dismissed without prejudice.

  • No juvenile standard

  • Juvenile standard is the adult standard

  • Juvenile justice standard exists

  • JJ standard includes developmental immaturity

Sex offender registration, 2015


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Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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