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A Minor's Constitutional Rights in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings

Before the 1960s, a minor had almost no constitutional protections in juvenile court. But now, after years of U.S. Supreme Court decisions and other changes in the law, the due process rights of a minor have increased substantially. While these rights still differ from the rights accorded to adults in criminal court, a minor still has constitutional protections. Here then is a breakdown of some of the due process rights that do and do not get applied in a juvenile case:

  • In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an accused minor should be informed about the delinquency charges leveled against them. This is the right to notice of the charges.
  • Juveniles also have the right to counsel. From the same U.S. Supreme Court case, juveniles were granted the right to an attorney, and a state-appointed attorney will represent them if they cannot afford a lawyer.
  • Minors have also been granted the privilege against self-incrimination, which means that a juvenile does not have to testify against him or herself; they can invoke the Fifth Amendment.
  • A minor also has the right to confront witnesses, even though they are not taking part in an official trial in criminal court. At a juvenile adjudication hearing, a minor's lawyer can cross-examine the state's witnesses.
  • Whenever a juvenile is in delinquency proceedings, looking at potential incarceration or adjudication, the juvenile has the right to have charges proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In proceedings where other penalties are involved, charges only have to be proved by a "preponderance of evidence".

Then there are a couple of rights that do not exist in a juvenile case, rights which make for a marked difference between juvenile court and criminal court. First of all, a minor does not have the right to a jury trial. In Arizona, as with most states, minors never have this right, regardless of the circumstances. A minor does not have the right to bail either, but this does not mean that they have to stay in custody. Often enough, a minor can be released to parents or guardians while awaiting their hearing in juvenile court.

If you need to know more about rights in juvenile court, or if you or a loved one need legal representation, you can find the assistance you need from our knowledgeable Phoenix criminal defense lawyer. It is in your best interests to act immediately, as a conviction in juvenile court can greatly diminish a young person's entire future, their getting into a good school, landing a job, and more. One mistake, or one undeserved charge, should not turn into such drastic consequences. Get the powerful legal defense you deserve. Contact the Law Offices of Joshua S. Davidson today!