Texas Juvenile Intake Process: What You Need To Know

When a juvenile is accused of committing an offense in Texas, they are not treated like an adult criminal defendant. Although they may be temporarily handcuffed and placed in a police car, they are not hauled off to a stereotypical jail, where they will be searched by a gruff sheriff’s deputy and locked up with other inmates.

Juveniles are not “booked into jail.”  That term isn’t even used. Instead, the juvenile justice system in Texas employs a process called juvenile intake.

In this article, we will explain the juvenile intake process in Texas and what parents can expect if their child has been taken into custody. Your next call needs to be to an experienced juvenile defense attorney.



At Varghese Summersett, we have one of the foremost juvenile experts in the state on our team. Lisa Herrick is Board Certified in Juvenile Law – one of only three attorneys in Tarrant County who hold this distinction. You will not find a juvenile defense attorney more qualified or experienced than Lisa. You want her at your child’s juvenile intake appointment.

What Happens if a Child is Taken into Custody or Accused of a Crime?

Each year, tens of thousands of juveniles – that is, youth ages 10 through 16 – are referred to Texas’ juvenile justice system. The case usually begins when someone – school officials, citizens, or parents – contact local law enforcement to report the alleged illegal conduct of a juvenile.

After conducting an investigation, if police believe there is probable cause that a juvenile has committed an offense, they can handle it a couple of different ways:

  • Take a child into custody where they will undergo a formal juvenile intake process;
  • Issue a warning notice, directing the child and his or her parents to report to juvenile services for a formal juvenile intake appointment on a specified day and time.

What Happens After a Child is Taken into Custody in Texas?

If a police officer takes a child into custody, the officer must take the child to a designated juvenile processing office, where they can only be kept for a maximum of six hours by law enforcement. A juvenile processing office is a room in a police station, sheriff’s office, or designated facility used for the temporary detention of a child. It may not be a cell or holding facility used for other types of detentions. A child may only be detained in a juvenile processing office for the following reasons:

  • return of a child to a parent or responsible adult;
  • completion of essential forms and records;
  • photographing and fingerprinting of a child if authorized;
  • issuing a warning to the child as required by law;
  • taking a statement of a child.

If a child is not released to a parent or guardian, law enforcement must take the child to the appropriate juvenile detention facility where they will undergo a formal juvenile intake process. In Tarrant County, juveniles are taken to the Tarrant County Juvenile Detention Center at 2701 Kimbo Road, where they will meet with a court intake probation officer.

The rest of this article deals with the juvenile intake process. It’s important to point out that a juvenile can – and should – request an attorney at any point of their involvement with law enforcement.

What is the Juvenile Intake Process in Tarrant County?

When a police officer files a case against a juvenile, the case goes to a juvenile intake probation officer before it is sent to the district attorney’s office. The intake probation officer is in charge of the juvenile intake process, which entails reviewing the offense report, conducting an intake interview with the juvenile and his or her parents, administering assessments, and, most importantly, making a recommendation about what the next step in the process should be. The juvenile intake probation officer can decide whether the juvenile should be referred for prosecution; placed on deferred prosecution probation; or sent home with supervisory caution, among other options.


What Happens During the Juvenile Intake Process?

The juvenile intake meeting is very important and can have a significant impact on the juvenile’s case. During this meeting, the probation officer will summarize the accusations and explain why the juvenile is there. They are not, however, allowed to give a copy of the police report to the family – or even ask the juvenile about the offense. The probation officer will then explain the juvenile process and what to expect over the course of their meeting. The juvenile intake process is not meant to be adversarial and it’s in the child and family’s best interest to be on their best behavior.

The probation officer will then ask a series of questions to the juvenile and his or her parents regarding the juvenile’s family life, school history,  medical history, relationships, and support system. During the appointment, the juvenile probation officer can also administer assessments to the juvenile, which are designed to screen for mental health or substance abuse problems.

The purpose of all of this information is to put together a social history of the child that will help guide the court and attorneys when making decisions about the juvenile and how to proceed.

What Kinds of Questions are Asked During the Juvenile Intake Interview?

During the intake process, both the juvenile and the parents will be asked various questions including but not limited to:

  • Who does the child live with?
  • Has the youth ever run away from home?
  • Does the child regularly attend school?
  • Doe the youth use illegal substances?
  • Does the child have friends who are bad influences?
  • What activities is the child involved in?

As you can see, the questions are designed to paint a picture of the juvenile and his or her familial, social, and educational context. Again, it’s important to have a juvenile attorney there during the intake interview if possible to make sure the juvenile’s rights are protected throughout the process.


Will My Child Be Fingerprinted and Photographed During the Juvenile Intake Process?

Yes, the juvenile intake process in Texas includes being fingerprinted and photographed. It is required by the Texas Department of Public Safety, regardless if you are a juvenile or an adult. In Tarrant County, the child will be taken to a specific fingerprint and photograph office at the detention center, where the photos and fingerprints will be taken.

What Happens After the Juvenile Intake Process?

Once the juvenile intake process is completed, the probation officer will make a decision about what happens next. Depending on the type of case, juvenile intake officers have several options on how to proceed. If it is a felony or serious case, however, their hands may be tied. The options include:

⇒ Supervisory Caution:  The probation officer counsels the juvenile about their conduct and may refer them to a social service agency or community-based first-offender program.

In this disposition, the case will not be forwarded to the DA’s Office and no formal charges will be filed.

⇒ Deferred Prosecution Probation: The juvenile is offered deferred prosecution probation which, upon successful completion, will result in a dismissal and the case being closed. If the juvenile violates conditions or fails to complete the program, their case can be sent to the prosecutor to file formal charges.

⇒ Referral to District Attorney: If the probation officer believes the case warrants charges, it will be sent to the District Attorney’s Office for review. If the case is a felony or involves crimes against a person or a weapon, it is considered a “mandatory referral” and will be sent to the district attorney’s office for review. The district attorney’s office will then decide whether to formally charge and prosecute the juvenile.

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Can My Child Request an Attorney During the Juvenile Intake Process?

Yes, your child can – and should –  request an attorney during the juvenile intake process in Texas. In fact, your child should request an attorney the moment that they have contact with a law enforcement officer who wants to speak with them.

Child Facing a Juvenile Intake Process?  Contact Lisa Herrick.

If your child has been accused of a crime, it’s important to contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney as soon as possible. If you act quickly, attorney Lisa Herrick can accompany you and your juvenile to the juvenile intake process, ensuring that all of their rights are protected and that they have an advocate by their side throughout the entire process.

Don’t trust your child’s future and freedom to just any defense attorney. Lisa is an expert in juvenile law. This is what she specializes in and what she is known for across the state of Texas. Call 817-203-2220 for a free consultation with Lisa today.

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