TERMS USED IN PENNSYLVANIA’S JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM
Below is a list of common terms used in Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system which
may be used regarding your child.
Accountability – When a crime is committed, a child has a responsibility for the harm
caused and takes action to repair the harm and restore the victim’s and community’s
losses to their pre-crime state, if possible.
Adjudication Hearing – A hearing in juvenile Court where the District
Attorney/Prosecutor, as a representative of the Commonwealth, presents their case to
prove that a child committed the offense he/she has been charged with.
Adjudication of Delinquency – When a child is found by the Court to have broken
the law and is in need of treatment, supervision or rehabilitation.
Appeal – Taking a child’s case to a higher Court to review the trial Court’s decision.
Assessment – A professional evaluation of a child’s level of risk and needs.
Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) – The approach that believes justice is
best served when the community, the victim and the offender (child who commits an
offense) receive balanced attention.
Bench Warrant – A Court order allowing the police or a juvenile probation officer to
physically take a child into custody and bring the child before the judge.
Community Service – Volunteer work that a child does to benefit the community and
to repair harm she/he has caused.
Court Order – A document signed by a judge, directing somebody to do something.
Anything that is written in the order must be abided by.
Detention Center – A locked facility where children are temporarily housed.
Disposition Hearing – If the judge finds a child guilty of committing a crime, a
disposition hearing is held to decide what services the child will be Court-ordered to
complete (such as probation supervision, community service hours, counseling, and/or
commitment to a residential treatment facility).
Diversion Program – A program that diverts children from going to Court. Check with
your child’s juvenile probation officer to find out what programs are available in your
Expungement – When a juvenile Court record is legally erased as though it never
Felony – The most serious criminal offense.
Misdemeanor – A less serious criminal offense.
Probable Cause – A strong reason to believe a child committed the offense of which
he or she is accused.
Restitution – Children are held accountable for the financial losses they have caused
to the victims of their crimes and the Court may order your child to pay the victims for
Review Hearing – A Court hearing that is held to review a child’s progress.
A FAMILY GUIDE to Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System 19
Revocation of Probation – When a child under probation supervision either commits
an illegal act or violates other conditions or rules laid out by the Court in the probation
agreement, and the Court can respond with sanctions.
Sanctions – Consequences that are imposed on children when they break the rules of
their probation. This may include community service, electronic monitoring, increased
probation supervision and/or curfew restrictions.
Status Offense – A legal term used to describe an offense committed by a child that
would not be considered a crime if an adult had committed the same act, such as
running away or truancy, which are not delinquent acts.
Subpoena – A Court order requiring a person to appear in Court at a certain date and
Victim Impact Statement – A written form that a victim has a right to complete and
have presented to the Court explaining the emotional and financial impact a child’s
crime has had on them.
Youth Level of Service Inventory (YLS) – A research-based assessment tool
designed to determine a child’s risk to reoffend and needed services through juvenile
probation. The YLS helps the probation officer objectively determine a child’s risk of reoffending
and the level of needed intervention, based upon the child’s history, strengths,
and social supports. Use of the YLS increases appropriate planning and placement