Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

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Unlike the adult criminal justice system, where the basic goals are to punish, deter, and maybe rehabilitate offenders, the main thrust of the juvenile justice system is to supervise, treat, and rehabilitate defendants to turn them from the criminal path before they become repeat adult offenders. Since this is the case, although juvenile defendants have some constitutional rights like the right to an attorney and the right against self-incrimination in common with adult defendants, they do not have others, like the right to a jury trial or the right to bail. Any juvenile who is being tried as an adult, however, will be entitled to bail.

Not having a constitutional right to bail does not mean, however, that juvenile defendants will be kept in custody prior to trial without limitation. Most states have in place strict procedures regarding when and how a juvenile can be kept in custody prior to trial. In Pennsylvania, for example, once a juvenile is arrested, he can only be kept in custody for 24 hours prior to a detention hearing.

The court officer who presides over these hearings is called a juvenile master who will determine if enough probable cause exists to show the juvenile may have committed the criminal acts. If it does, based on factors such as seriousness of the offense, the juvenile’s prior contacts with the system, and the sufficiency of parental supervision, the juvenile master will then decide whether or not the defendant should continue to be held until the trial date.

There are several different levels of custody a juvenile can be subjected to prior to trial. These include placement in a secure facility or a less secure community based shelter, intensive supervision or the use of electronic monitoring devices by a probation officer, and finally, in home detention.

The laws on pretrial detention for juveniles can differ from state to state. If your child has been arrested and is being held, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in your area to find out what you can do about the situation.