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Preparing to Represent Young People in DC Superior Court

Starting in June I will be "picking up" cases, i.e., I will be assigned young clients charged with crimes in juvenile court in DC (on the "JM-level" where Family Court cases are heard).

The clients I will represent are not able to afford attorneys, so I will be appointed to them, similar to how public defenders are assigned to clients. I don't know yet what type of cases I will receive but they will most likely involve assaults (often school fights), robberies without weapons, and minor thefts (like shoplifting).

When a child is arrested, they go to a holding facility at the Metropolitan Police Department and are then transferred to the Superior Court. The morning of "pick up," when attorneys are assigned cases, clients are held in either the DYRS at-risk room or the US Marshall's lockup cell depending on their security designation.

I will meet with my client right after receiving their file to let them know I will be representing them and get some initial details about the case. This will also be my first opportunity to build trust with my client which is one of the most important things to be done that morning. Being arrested is a scary, frustrating, and difficult process. It will be my job to provide my client with some comfort - I won't always be able to get them released right away but I can at least show them they have someone who will be fighting on their side.

After the initial meeting and gathering information, we will go before the judge. If the prosecutor (from the Office of the Attorney General, often referred to as the OAG or AAG, which is the Assistant Attorney General) asks that the client be detained at the Youth Services Center (basically the jail for juveniles in DC) then we will have a probable cause hearing.

The probable cause hearing is an opportunity to get more information about the case. A police officer will testify and can be cross-examined. This happens without much preparation since it's done as the same day as the arrest. But it only takes place if the prosecutor wants to keep the client locked up. If they are willing to release the client pending the next court date then the client is just released that day.

As the case moves forward there will be discussions about whether to take a plea or go to trial. I will be investigating the allegations and crafting a defense. I'll explore that process in a later post.

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