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Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions from families with children in the juvenile justice system.

Many of the answers listed below are specific to our local county but still offer insight on how things may work in your community. 

How do we access the legal services of a court-appointed attorney/public defender?

When a determination is made to prosecute, and charges are officially filed, the prosecutor’s office sends a report, known as discovery, to the office of Thurston County Public Defense. Once the office receives the report at their intake desk, they assign an attorney to the case.

How do we find out who the public defender assigned to the case is?

In Thurston County, the attorney assigned to your child’s case may attempt to make contact with you before the hearing. If they are not able to contact you before the date of the hearing, they will speak with you at the time of the hearing, prior to your child going before the court official. If you have questions about who is assigned to the case or if you have not heard from them, you could also choose to contact the office directly at 360-754-4897.

What is discovery?

Simply put, discovery is the exchange of the legal information and the known facts or evidence between both the prosecution and defense.

How do I hire a private attorney?

Hiring an attorney can be stressful. Deciding on the best person to represent your child is not an easy decision. There are websites out there which may help you narrow down your search. 


One such website is Avvo. This website allows you to do a search by the location and area of practice (e.g., criminal law). It also has reviews, which may be helpful.  


If you choose to hire an attorney, consider picking a few attorneys and scheduling consultations with each of them. Initial meetings are typically done free of charge. If you can, it’s a good idea to take someone you trust with you for support. It’s essential that you feel comfortable asking your attorney questions and getting their feedback. This is a service you will be paying for, so make sure that they are someone you feel satisfied with. An attorney that rushes in and out, leaving you with unanswered questions may not be your best bet.
When making your decision, make sure that you know up front how the attorney will be billing. Some attorneys like to be paid through retainers (that means a more substantial amount of cash up front), others prefer to bill a fixed amount. There are also attorneys who charge by the hour or half hour and even others who create custom-made billing plans. Just make sure you understand what the fees are ahead of time and what those fees will cover. Choose one that works best for you. 

It’s also a good idea to find out if the attorney has had experience in local juvenile courts.  Familiarity with the court helps enable your attorney to know how to best present your case to individual judges based on previous encounters.


Last, remember that the attorney you are hiring is there to represent your child. This can be tough if you and your child disagree on how to handle their defense. Keep communications lines clear with your child and their attorney but know that in the end, your child is the client, and the attorney will be working to serve them. 
What is a probable cause hearing?

The purpose of a probable cause hearing also called a preliminary hearing, is to weigh how sufficient the evidence is.  It can also give the defense attorney a glimpse of who the prosecution will likely call as a witness.

What is an arraignment hearing?

An arraignment hearing is when the youth is formally told about charges that are being brought against them. Standard practice in most arraignment hearings is for the child to initialy plead “not guilty”. This gives the youth and defense attorney time to talk before the child decides how he or she wants to resolve the case.

Will I have to post bail?

There are times when a judge sets bail. Bail is usually based on three things. The severity of allegations, the likelihood that the youth may commit another crime, and sometimes whether it is believed that the child will show up to all their court hearings. Your attorney should be able to provide you with more information on the likelihood of a judge setting bail.

How does a bail bond work?

You may hear the words “bail” and “bond” used interchangeably. The two words are closely related but not the same.  Bail is the sum of money a youth is required to pay entirely to get out of jail. A bond is money that is posted on a youth’s behalf, usually by a bail bond company, to secure their release. 

What is a pre-trial hearing?

A pre-trial hearing is what most the majority of hearings are called after the initial arraignment but  before a matter goes to trial are called. The purpose of pre-trial hearings is to try and resolve some of the legal issues and to make sure the case is moving forward towards resolution or trial. 

What is a decline of jurisdiction or remand hearing?

A decline of jurisdiction or remand hearing is a process of determining whether the case of a juvenile with certain serious charges will be transferred to an adult criminal court or stay in juvenile court.

What is a disposition hearing?

In a disposition hearing, also known as a sentencing hearing, the judge hears the details of the youth’s case and orders a set of requirements for the child to follow. This is called a disposition order, and it may include things such as incarceration, probation, treatment, community service, and more.

What is a competency hearing?

A competency hearing is a hearing where the judge decides if the youth is “competent” to be tried. A child cannot be tried if he or she is not competent. To be found competent, the youth must be able to understand the court process and be able to assist the attorney in his or her defense. If the child is not able to accomplish these because of a mental condition, the youth cannot stand trial.

What is a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is when the defense and prosecution make an agreement. The youth agrees to plead guilty or “no contest” in exchange for a deal by the prosecutor to drop one or more charges, reduce a charge to a less serious offense, or recommend to the judge a specific sentence acceptable to the defense.

Where are the hearings held?
Local hearings are held at the Thurston County Family and Juvenile Court located at 2801 32nd Avenue SW
Tumwater, WA, 98512.
How long does a hearing take?
Hearing can take a considerable amount of time, depending on how many other juveniles are scheduled. You should plan on a minimum of 1 hour, but it could take up to 2 1/2 hours. You can find more information on what to expect in our local courts on the following site https://www.thurstoncountywa.gov/sc/Pages/visiting-the-court.aspx
Is it ok to bring my other children to the hearing?
You should take into consideration how you are feeling emotionally at the time, and the amount of time you will be there. The court process can often bring up unexpected emotions in parents. Don’t be afraid to lean on your family and friends during this process.  The courthouse is not always the best environment for children. However, having said that, if a situation arises in which you have no other childcare options, it is ok to bring your other children with you.
When does a matter go to trial?
If the youth is pleading not guilty and an agreement cannot be reached between the prosecutor and the defense it will go before an appointed judge to make a decision on the matter.
What is YDP?
Youth Development Program is a court-ordered, positive youth development program that is utilized in Thurston County as alternatives to incarceration. There are two programs, Seeds of Change and YDP Afterschool, which are both designed to engage youth within their communities positively and constructively.  
What is FFT?
Thurston County Juvenile Courts define Functional Family Therapy as an Evidenced Based Program provided by trained FFT therapists to provide family counseling.  The purpose of FFT is to assist families in solving current problems (risk factors) and building new strategies, skills, and confidence to resolve future issues. Typically, there are 8-12 sessions designed to occur in the family home.   This service is provided at no cost to the family.   
What is ART?
Aggression Replacement Therapy is a therapy that is typically court ordered and done in a group setting. It is designed to teach participants to replace inappropriate behavior with positive alternatives.  
What is Diversion?
Youth who are charged with misdemeanors or certain felony level offenses may be referred by the Prosecuting Attorney’s office to Diversion. A Community Accountability Board comprised of 3-5 volunteers, meets with the youth and their family, reviews the offense and assigns appropriate consequences. The program is designed to foster accountability and maximize a sense of community and responsibility in the youth. This may include community service and restitution, among other activities.
What is electronic home monitoring?
Electronic Monitoring is a form of detention. Youth are assigned an ankle monitor that will be programmed to transmit a signal if the child moves outside of a restricted boundary. The fee for electronic home monitoring is $7.50 a day.  The cost is waived if a family member is the victim of the offense or the probation violation.  The fee is also waived if the child receives adoption support.  Parents/Guardians may also complete a Financial Form to request the billing be on a sliding fee based on their income or to set up a payment plan. 
What is the SSODA program?
SSODA stands for Special Sex Offender Disposition Alternative and is a disposition that can be given to youth who have been convicted of a sex offense. The SSODA program is a two-year probation program that is focused on sex offender therapy. Rather than serving a sentence with the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, the court decides to place the youth on two years of specialized probation where sex offender treatment is the focus. This opportunity is given based on the sex offender evaluation recommendations, assessed risk level, compliance with pre-trial conditions, family support, and the youths willingness to participate in the treatment program and follow SSODA conditions. 
When can I visit my child?
Each detention center will have its own set of rules regarding visitation. Here in Thurston County, a parent/legal guardian may visit their child during any scheduled visitation period within the first 24 hours after the juvenile’s initial arrest by law enforcement.
After that, visiting hours are scheduled according to the youth’s assignment to a living unit.
​The following schedule has been established in Thurston County:
Tuesday 2:00 pm
Thursdays 9:00 am
Visitation information is subject to change.
For more information on visitation and detention programs please call  360-709-3180.
Am I allowed to bring personal items into detention for them?
Locally, only stamps and books may be provided to youth in detention. Any items for the child must be given to staff before entry into the visiting area and marked with the youth’s name, or they will not be accepted. Employees will search the items, and give to the child following visitation. Any item provided without authorization will be considered contraband and could result in lost privileges and possible legal consequences.
Medication for youth has specific requirements. It is best to contact the detention center directly at (360) 709-3180  before bringing any in.
Who is allowed to visit?
At first, visitation is limited to parents and legal guardians. The detention center uses what is known as a level system to help your child understand their behavior expectations. Following the detention center’s rules help your child earn their level. The higher the level, the more privileges they receive. When your child has attained Level 3 or 4 status in detention, they may be allowed visitation with extended family members. Extended family members include siblings, grandparents, aunts, and/or uncles. All family visitors outside of the parent/legal guardian must be approved by the youth’s probation counselor.
For more information on the level system or to find out who the assigned probation counselor is for your child talk to corrections staff at your next visit or you can call (360)709-3180.
What if my child is suicidal?
All juvenile detention centers should have medical and emergency procedures in place. In Thurston County, counseling staff is available to your child. In detention, your child is still your child. You know them best and if you are worried about your child, please reach out to staff and let them know your concerns. 
Can I talk to my child on the phone?
Detention centers typically allow youth to make phone calls at set times during the day or week. The phone calls may be collect calls or non-collect calls depending on the rules of your local detention center.
Will my child be attending school in detention?
Most states have access to some form of education in detention. Locally, youth are given an assessment in Reading, Vocabulary, and Math after they arrive. An assigned teacher then determines the correct level or needs of the child. The teacher will then set up a daily curriculum for the students that will take into account the age group of the children who are being served.
Is my child allowed to get mail?
Here in Thurston County, youth may receive and send mail. All Incoming mail is checked for contraband (items not allowed in detention). Any mail the child cannot keep in custody will be placed in their property. The Detention address for mailing the youth is: 
Thurston County Family and Juvenile Court
Attn: (Youth Name Here)
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502