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How the juvenile justice system works

A 15-year-old juvenile was charged with reckless use of fire in connection with an incident at the Fairfield High School Oct. 14, That person – authorities have not publicly said if it is a boy or girl – enters a court system quite different from adult court.

Jefferson County Assistant Attorney Pat McAvan said juvenile court starts with an intake appointment with the juvenile court officer, who uses information about the child and the facts surrounding their case to make a recommendation about how to proceed. Various evaluations and treatment programs can be considered.

“The juvenile court process is designed to deliver targeted services to the child,” McAvan said. “It is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Juvenile court cases are confidential, and can only be accessed under specific circumstances. For instance, if the child is found guilty, they will have the opportunity at age 18 or two years following the closure of their case (whichever is sooner) to have the record sealed. That limits access to the case information in the future.

The juvenile court process is separate from issues of school discipline. However, McAvan said the juvenile court officer will ensure that the child receives an education.

“Education is a building block for rehabilitation and becoming a productive, adult member of society in the future,” he said.