Colorado’s juvenile court system handles criminal charges brought against “juveniles,” or people under age 18. Like adults charged with Colorado crimes, juveniles also have a right to be represented by an attorney.
The goals of juvenile cases often differ from the goals for an adult criminal case. Although both hold proceedings to determine whether the charged person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in adult cases the purpose of the sentence is generally to punish the person if he or she is found guilty. In juvenile court, however, the goal is to teach, train, or rehabilitate the child as well as to hold him or her responsible for misbehaving.
The difference in goals leads to several differences in how a juvenile case goes forward. For instance, in many juvenile cases, the child’s parents or guardians are also required to attend court hearings and to help carry out any sentence or treatment the court requires. If the parents or guardians aren’t able or willing to get involved, the court may appoint another person, known as a “guardian ad litem,” to act in the parent’s or guardian’s place.