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Juvenile Rights in the Criminal Justice System

Juveniles

“Unless appropriate due process of law is followed, even the juvenile who has violated the law may not feel that he is being fairly treated and may therefore resist the rehabilitative efforts
of court personnel.”

In re Gault (1967), 387 U.S. 1

What are my rights?

  • You have the right to be given the Miranda Warning.

  • You have the right to receive advance notice of the charges against you within a reasonable amount of time before your hearing.

  • You have the right to have an attorney present during your hearing.

  • You have the right to a trial.

  • You have the right against self-incrimination.

  • You have the right to appeal your case and have an attorney appointed to assist you.

You have the right to be given the Miranda Warning

The warning informs you that (1) you have the right to remain silent; (2) anything you say can be used against you in a court of law; (3) you have the right to an attorney; and (4) if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed before any questioning if you so desire.

Sometimes the police will ask you to answer questions. You do not have to speak if you don’t want to. You do not have to speak without your attorney present. If you don’t have an attorney, you can ask for one at any time. You can always ask for a parent to be present during questioning.

Whoever is questioning you may say any of the following to get your cooperation:

"If you answer truthfully, you can go home."

"If you tell what your friends did, nothing will happen to you."

"If you tell the truth, you don’t need an attorney."

"If you don’t confess, you can go to trial as an adult."

All of these situations depend on many factors besides whether you answer questions. You can’t always go home; you may get charged if you tell what your friends did; and you may be tried as an adult even if you confess. The police do not control whether or not charges are filed. They do not control what type of charges are filed. If the police make promises about your charges, you cannot enforce these promises later. If you are not sure what to do, you should always ask for an attorney before you answer any questions.

You have the right to receive advance notice of the charges against you within a reasonable amount of time before your hearing.

You receive notice of the charges against you in the form of a complaint. The complaint must list all the charges that are brought up in court. You must receive the complaint in enough time to allow you to prepare for a hearing. The complaint should contain enough details that your alleged actions are clear from reading it. If you do not receive a complaint in advance of your hearing, if all of the charges are not listed, or if there is not enough detail in the complaint, ask for an attorney.

You have the right to have an attorney present during your hearing.

Sometimes the court will ask you if you want to "waive counsel". Say NO to this question if you want an attorney. Waiving counsel means that you agree to give up your right to have an attorney appointed to your case. Once you have an attorney you should ask this person any questions you have. It is the attorney’s job to explain anything you don’t understand. If you want an attorney, the court will appoint one.

You have the right to a trial.

At court you will be asked to admit or deny the charges against you. By admitting to the charges you are giving up your right to a trial. When you admit to the charges against you, you give up other rights such as presenting evidence (witnesses) in your favor and cross-examining witnesses against you. By denying the charges, you make the state prove its case. If you do not feel there is good evidence against you, deny the charges and ask for an attorney. You should tell your attorney what evidence is in your favor and what witnesses you have. You do not have the right to a jury trial if you are being charged as a juvenile.

You have the right against self-incrimination.

This right means you do not have to say or do anything that helps the state prove its case against you. This protection applies when the police are asking you questions and it applies to your trial. You do not have to testify at your trial. If you are being asked questions in a different context and your answer contains information that could be used in a criminal prosecution, you do not have to answer those questions. Also, you do not have to answer if your answer could lead to other evidence that might be used against you.

You have the right to appeal your case and have an attorney appointed to assist you.

At the conclusion of your case, you have the right to appeal to a court of higher power. You have this right if you had a trial or if you pled to the charges against you. The right to have your appeal heard only lasts for 30 days after the court’s final decision. If you do not appeal within those 30 days, you may lose your right to appeal. When you file an appeal you are asking the Court of Appeals to examine what happened in your trial court and make sure that your Constitutional rights were not violated. At the conclusion of your original case, you can tell your judge you want to appeal. You can also ask the judge for an attorney to help you appeal.

 

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