The Austin Sigg Case undoubtedly will be followed closely by the public due to the understandably heightened interest in the murder of Jessica Ridgeway. The attention paid to this case will certainly raise questions as to juvenile court procedure, and how juvenile court procedure differs from that in adult court.
A juvenile taken into custody is entitled to an initial hearing addressing the validity of his arrest and detention. At this hearing the state must show that there is reasonable cause to believe the juvenile committed that offense. If the state wants to further retain the juvenile, as was the case for Mr. Sigg, they must prove that the juvenile is either a danger to himself or others, or has a past record warranting detention. An attorney will be appointed for the juvenile at this time. Any juvenile who is in custody is entitled to the assistance of a public defender. At the conclusion of this initial hearing, the court will set a date within 72 hours for a petition in delinquency to be filed.
A juvenile may enter a plea of guilty, or not guilty. If a juvenile enters a not guilty plea, they are only entitled to a jury trial in limited circumstances. Following a plea of guilty or a conviction at trial, the court can enter an order that the juvenile is delinquent, or defer adjudication with the consent of the prosecutor. An adjudication means to a juvenile what a conviction does for an adult.
In this case, Sigg likely will be tried as an adult. There are two methods in which a juvenile’s case may be heard in adult court – the transfer method, or by way of direct file. In the transfer method, the district attorney would request a hearing in which the juvenile judge would decide whether the case should be transferred to district court, where adult cases involving felony charges are heard. The juvenile judge will consider numerous factors including the age of the juvenile, the maturity of the juvenile, and the severity of the crime. Should the direct file method be elected, the case is filed in district court without the permission of the juvenile judge, which is much easier for the district attorney than the transfer method and therefore is preferred from their perspective. This is possible in cases where the juvenile is at least fourteen and is alleged to have committed a serious offense, such as murder. Once Sigg’s case is transfered to adult court, his case will follow adult criminal procedures until its conclusion. Unlike an adult defendant, he cannot be sentenced to the death penalty if convicted.
If you are in Denver and are facing juvenile charges, contact the Law Offices of Kimberly Diego. Kimberly Diego is a highly accomplished Denver juvenile crimes lawyer, and she represents clients from all walks of life throughout the metro area – juveniles, adults, and clients accused of both felonies and misdemeanors. Contact Ms. Diego at 720.257.5346 (available 24-7) to schedule a free consultation to review the nature of your case or visit her website at www.diegocriminaldefense.com.