In general, felonies are much more serious. Misdemeanors are less serious in terms of the court procedure standard.
Child In Need of Supervision or Services (CHINS) refers to a youth running away from home, being truant, or other behaviors that pose a threat to themselves or another. Another name for these are called "status offenses".
In Fairfax County, once a police officer takes a youth into custody, they will either release the youth to a parent or bring the youth to juvenile intake. When released to a parent, the police officer may follow up with juvenile intake to file charges. When the police bring a youth to juvenile intake, the intake officer determines probable cause for the charges. The intake officer uses assessments and other information to determine how to proceed with the case. The child may be released to a guardian or placed in the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) or Shelter Care facility. If the child is placed in JDC or Shelter Care, they will have a detention hearing the next business day.
Parents/guardians should always call the police first to report the child as a runaway.
A youth is in need of supervision (CHINS) if they run away from home or a residential facility more than once without permission. An intake officer must decide if the youth's behavior is a threat to his or her life or health. The intake officer also documents past efforts to address the youth's problems.
If you believe your family needs assistance, schedule an appointment with an intake officer to assess the situation. It is important the youth also attend the appointment.
Parents/guardians should contact their child’s school for support. A school attendance officer must become involved when a child has a high number of unexcused absences and makes referrals if there is no improvement. Parents/guardians are encouraged to call the school to discuss their child’s attendance.
The Code of Virginia explains that the goal of the juvenile court is to divert appropriate cases to alternative programs while maintaining public safety. Diverted cases typically include minor misdemeanor charges that may be resolved informally. Juvenile Intake provides diversion programs so cases can avoid the formal court process.. The person filing the complaint must be willing to prosecute if the child fails diversion.
Juvenile Intake operates 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. An intake officer can be reached at (703) 246-2495.