Do I have the right to a jury trial in juvenile court?

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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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In some states, such as Kansas and New Hampshire, juveniles have a right to a jury trial in juvenile court. These states’ constitutions, the 6th and 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, and judicial interpretations of the state and federal constitutions provide juveniles with the right to a jury trial. If you are being charged as an adult in criminal court, the U.S. Constitution provides you with the right to a jury trial.

Requesting a Jury Trial

If you are in a state that allows jury trials, you must inform the court that you want a jury trial. The state’s rules, as well as the circuit in which the juvenile court sits, determine how the trial will proceed. The trial may be open to the public. The juvenile on trial has a right to an attorney. The job of the juvenile’s attorney is to defend the juvenile, and argue for what the juvenile wants to have happen. The juvenile may also have a volunteer court-appointed special advocate, called a CASA or a guardian ad litem. The job of the court-appointed special advocate is required to tell the court what would be in the best interests of the juvenile. 

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Jury in a Juvenile Delinquency Case

Typically, a jury in a juvenile delinquency case is similar to a jury in an adult criminal case. A juvenile jury has the same number of people as a criminal jury. A juvenile jury is also required to give a unanimous verdict. A juvenile jury is composed of adults. The major difference is that a juvenile judge, not a criminal judge, sentences a juvenile defendant who takes a plea offer or is found guilty. 

Teen Court in Juvenile Cases

If you are a juvenile who has been charged with a minor, non-violent offense, instead of a jury trial you may be in a jurisdiction that allows you to be sentenced in “Teen Court.” In Teen Court, juveniles admit to their offenses before a panel of juveniles. The other juveniles suggest a punishment for the juvenile before the panel. A Teen Court proceeding is not required to follow the rules of evidence for juvenile delinquency court. Teen Court is usually overseen by an actual judge. A Teen Court proceeding is not a juvenile jury trial. 

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