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How Does The Denver Juvenile Court Work?
Statutorily, the juvenile court is a branch of the district court in Colorado. Hence the courts are combined administratively. However, the Denver Juvenile Court is the only exception to the norm in the state. There is a dedicated Bench on the Denver juvenile court that exclusively handles matters within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Cases within the jurisdiction of the Denver juvenile court include matters of:
- Juvenile delinquency;
- Juvenile dependence and neglect;
- Child support and paternity;
- Relinquishment; and
- Adoption cases.
The Denver juvenile court system is designed to be punitive, with a strong focus on the best interest of the youth. Colorado defines a juvenile as any individual between the age of 10 and 18. The Denver juvenile court runs the “one family, one judge” model, which allows families with cross-system involvement to have all cases handled by the same judicial officer throughout the whole course of their involvement. Through this model, case knowledge can be consolidated and services across case types properly coordinated.
Besides standard case processing, the Denver juvenile court operates several specialized dockets and works in collaboration with other agencies in Denver to develop innovative programming:
Youth and Family Treatment Court (YFTC) - YFTC is a specialty court serving high risk and high need probation involved youth, considered as needing support and treatment services to address substance abuse concerns.
Restore, Educate, Support, and Treat (REST) - A specialized program for high risk and high need youth with a focus on connection to treatment and resources serving youth considered as victims of human trafficking, or youth considered to be at a high risk of victimization.
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Court - A dedicated docket with a primary focus on the linkage to appropriate services and emphasis on federal case guidelines to families served under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Dependency and Neglect System Reform (DANSR) Pilot Program - The DANSR program piloted in the Denver juvenile court is aimed at system reform and improved outcomes for families affected by substance abuse. The program uses research-based family drug court principles to traditional child welfare case processing.
Family Strong—This is an initiative instituted between several agencies and with technical and financial support from a third-party sponsor. The initiative’s primary focus is on preventing out-of-home placement for Denver juvenile court youth, through the provision of assessment-driven services to youth and families. The agencies involved are:
- The Denver Juvenile Probation (DJP);
- The Denver Department of Human Services (DDHS);
- The Juvenile Services Center (JSC);
- The Denver Collaborative Partnership (DCP);
- The Denver Senate Bill 91–94 team (SB94); and
- The District Attorney (DA) Diversion.
Creative Options - This is a stakeholder team with the objectives of developing and improving the responses for truancy court-involved youth, through the use of incentive or sanction based interventions targeted at increasing school attendance and reducing risk for further system involvement.
During a detention hearing in the Denver juvenile court, a judge or magistrate determines whether there is probable cause for arrest and makes a decision on bond viability and terms. Parents of the juvenile are required to attend a detention hearing having received prior notification. Juveniles with parents who are unavoidably absent will be appointed a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) by the judge or magistrate. The appointed GAL serves the best interest of the juvenile and stands in for the parent. The Public Defender is also in attendance and may take applications to represent a juvenile. Victims and members of their family are not mandated to appear during detention hearings but may attend. A detention hearing is usually held within two business days after an arrest.
During the hearing for a return of filing in the Denver juvenile court, a juvenile is advised of filed charges. If charges are not filed, the case is dismissed. When charges are filed, a juvenile is served with a petition listing the charges, and a date for preliminary hearing or status is scheduled. However, not all offenses are entitled a juvenile to a preliminary hearing. When preliminary hearings are held, the District Attorney is required to provide a judge with enough evidence for the court to determine whether there is probable cause to bind a case over as charged. Preliminary hearings are typically waived by the juvenile to keep the plea negotiation process open.
Generally, the majority of criminal cases held in the Denver juvenile court are bench trials heard by a judge rather than a jury. By law, court trials in the Denver juvenile court must be held within 60 days after a juvenile’s plea of not guilty. However, for certain felony offenses, juveniles may demand a trial by jury. In such cases, a trial must be held within six months after a not guilty plea from the juvenile involved.
The Denver juvenile court is a trial court in Colorado’s 2nd judicial district. The court has a presiding judge, two court judges, four juvenile court magistrates, a clerk of court, a family court facilitator, and a chief probation officer. Juvenile court judges serve six-year terms like district court judges and may be retained by voters in the judicial district. Juvenile court judges also have a mandatory retirement age of 72. A juvenile court judge is required to be a qualified elector of the judicial district, a resident of the district during the term, and must be licensed to practice law in Colorado for a minimum of five years.
Persons interested in obtaining case records of the Denver Juvenile Court proceedings may find such through the 2nd Judicial District/Denver County Docket Search tool on the Colorado Judicial Branch website. Users may select the Denver Juvenile Court from the Court options on the tool and provide the case number, party’s last name/company name, party’s first name, or attorney’s bar number. Note that the information provided via this tool is not extensive. To obtain actual court records, visit the location of the district court below:
Denver Juvenile Court
520 West Colfax Avenue
Room 125 (Clerk’s Office)
Denver, CO 80204
Phone: (720) 337–0570
Hours: Monday—Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.