What rights do I have in juvenile court?

Juvenile rights in court vary from adult rights because juvenile court is a type of civil court, not a criminal court. In most state and federal courts, juveniles have the right to an attorney, a speedy trial, to confront and cross-examine witnesses, to introduce evidence, and the right not to testify against oneself. Learn more about your rights in juvenile court below.

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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: Jul 16, 2021

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When you are a juvenile and you are accused of a crime, your case may be heard in juvenile court, also “juvenile delinquency court.” The seriousness and type of charge determines whether you will appear in juvenile court. For example, in some states, juveniles age 16 or over accused of committing minor traffic offenses will be ordered to appear in regular traffic court. Juvenile court is a type of civil court. It is not a criminal court.This explains why you do not have the same rights as an adult who appears in criminal court. If your juvenile court case is transferred to adult court, you have the same rights as an adult.

In most state and federal courts, juveniles have the following rights:

  • The right to an attorney.
  • The right to a speedy trial.
  • The right to confront witnesses against the juvenile.
  • The right to cross-examine witnesses against the juvenile.
  • The right to introduce evidence on their own behalf.
  • The right not to testify against oneself.

In juvenile court, an attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile committed the delinquent act. In most juvenile courts, a juvenile has the right to appeal the judge’s ruling. A juvenile usually has the right to an attorney for the first appeal. In many states and federal courts, a juvenile does not have a right to a jury trial or bail. Juvenile court laws determine whether a juvenile has a right to an interpreter. Typically, a juvenile has a right to have their parent, custodian, or guardian present during court proceedings.

In addition, the government is typically allowed to detain a juvenile in detention only for a short period before a proceeding. This period varies depending on juvenile court rules. It is usually between 1-3 days. If the juvenile court case has not been decided before the period is up, the juvenile must be released or told why they have not been released. When a juvenile is released, that does not mean the case has been dismissed. A juvenile must return to juvenile court to resolve the case.

The laws regarding state and federal courts’ treatment of juveniles differ. Consult an experienced juvenile delinquency attorney to represent you in juvenile court


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