Tahlequah Attorney BlogOklahoma Child Deprived Case: What Is an Adjudication?

Adjudication, in a Juvenile Deprived Case, Is a Beginning Trial

Video Transcribed: What is adjudication? My name is Ryan Cannonie, I am the Tahlequah family attorney for the Wirth Law Office in Cherokee County. I did a video on this a while back, but I’ve had some more questions about it. It’s come up in some of my cases with people, so I wanted to sit down and be very clear about some terms.

So adjudication, in a juvenile deprived case, is kind of like a beginning trial. So you can have a hearing on it. You don’t get to have a jury, it’d be with a judge, or you can agree and say, “Yep. I agree with whatever the issues are, that I have problems with drugs or alcohol or domestic violence is a problem in the home, or there was some type of medical neglect, and I want to work a treatment plan,” or if you’re in tribal court, a case plan, “to get my kids back.”

So at adjudication, it’s basically like finding you guilty of child abuse or neglect without actually a finding of guilt. That means that it’s not a criminal offense. You’re not going to be sentenced for it or punished for it.

What it’s doing is you acknowledging that yes, something was wrong, I want to work this plan and fix it. Or if they don’t have the evidence and we fight it and we go to trial on it, and the judge disagrees and says there is evidence, then it’s the court saying, “Nope, something’s wrong. I want you to work on this plan.” So that’s how adjudication works, or what it means.

Adjudication happens near the beginning of a case. So you have your emergency custody, then you have your adjudication after that. So what are your options in adjudication? Well, you can fight it and have a hearing on it. If you win, you get your kids back.

If you don’t win, you work a plan. You can agree … If the evidence is overwhelming, there are some times where it’s better just to agree and start working on your plan. There are some times it’s better to fight it. It just depends on what the evidence is against you, and all that comes down to a case-by-case basis.

I have clients right now that we’re gearing up to fight adjudications. I have clients that we looked at what the evidence was and was like, “Well, they’re saying that there are drugs in the home and they’ve been in the home, took photos, and got your drug test. And they’ve walked up, you’re holding drugs.” Something like that, it’s going to be kind of hard to beat. So it just depends on what the evidence is against you at that point.

rape by instrumentation in OklahomaSo you can, as I say, you can fight it or you can agree to it. Unless you win, which if you win, then the case is over, but if you lose adjudication or if you agree with adjudication, both ways in the same there, you work a plan.

None of those mean that you’re going to automatically lose your rights to your children. They mean that you’re not going to have your parental rights terminated based on an adjudication.

Now, the state can try to terminate your rights immediately. The tribe doesn’t really, at least the Cherokees don’t really have a provision for that. That’s the same as the state. They can do it, but it requires, I think, a little bit more effort on their part.

The state one is if there’s, what we call, shocking and heinous child abuse or neglect, then the state can try to terminate your parental rights at the same time as an adjudication.

But you’ll know that long before you walk in to make a decision as to what your if you’re going to agree to it or fight it. Your attorney will tell you long before, “This is either just for adjudication or this is for termination.” That’s kind of how that all works.

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