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Juvenile Law & JDR District Court

Juvenile Law Attorney | Charlottesville, Virginia

Andre A. Hakes – Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes & DUI Attorney

Leila B. Higgins-Fleishman – Criminal Defense & Traffic Attorney

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Any matter involving a person under 18 years old in Virginia will almost always be heard (at least at first) in Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) District Court. This can include anything from truancy to murder. While there are many similarities in juvenile and adult cases, here are some important differences:

  1. Records: Juvenile records are protected by different laws and not as easily accessible as adult records. However, that does not mean that no one can ever see a juvenile’s record. Certain people in certain circumstances are entitled to view juvenile records, so it is best not to assume no one will ever see them.
  2. Signing: Children cannot petition for, or sign any court documents unless they have been emancipated, so an adult must petition the court as the child’s next friend (ironically, this includes emancipation petitions). In these cases, the child is the petitioner, but the adult is responsible for presenting the case and signing the documents.
  3. Diversion: JDR Courts have broad discretion to refer cases to diversion before convicting a child of a criminal offense. This allows a child to have access to necessary services, without acquiring a criminal record. The services available and circumstances under which a child may use them will depend on the court.
  4. Witnesses: While children can testify under oath, they must first be found competent to testify. That means that they must be able to understand right and wrong, and know the difference between a truth and a lie. They must understand the importance of telling the truth, and be able to tell the truth when asked by the judge. There are many protections available for child witnesses, such as testimony through CCTV, or in the judge’s chamber rather than open court.
  5. Court-Appointed attorney: Children are also entitled to representation by a Guardian ad litem in many situations where an adult would not be entitled to court appointed counsel, such as in a protective order or delinquency proceeding.
  6. Representation: Anyone under the age of 18 cannot sign a legally binding contract or fee agreement with an attorney without their legal guardian’s signature. However, that parent is not entitled to know what the child says to their attorney, as there is no parent/child privilege. Ensure that you hire an attorney you can trust to represent your child’s interests, because you will probably not be able to talk with them about specifics in your child’s case.

We can tell you what procedures you can expect, what services your child is entitled to, and what services are available in your jurisdiction, as well as helping you to navigate the various programs and accompanying paperwork in JDR. We will also be able to tell you who may see your juvenile record, and advise you on how best to address it.


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We have three offices conveniently located in Charlottesville, Palmyra (Across from Food Lion), and Harrisonburg, Virginia.

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