Minors involved in juvenile court delinquency proceedings have different constitutional rights compared to adults facing criminal cases. Since the 1960s, juvenile proceedings have improved and the constitutional rights of juveniles have been strengthened. Most juvenile due process rights are based on US Supreme Court cases while others depend on the state.
Here are the rights of juveniles in delinquency proceedings:
- Probable cause – If a minor is suspected of committing a crime, authorities should have probable cause to search and arrest him or her. However, authorities that have quasi-parental responsibilities over the minor, such as the schoolteacher or principal, can search and temporarily detain minors over reasonable suspicion.
- Phone call – If the minor in custody is likely to stay detained for a long time, he or she has the right to one phone call. The minor can use the phone call to call his or her parents, so that the parents can call an attorney. The minor can also call an attorney directly. This is part of the minor’s Miranda Rights. If the authorities do not give the minor this right, anything the juvenile will say after that will be considered inadmissible.
- Bail – Juveniles can’t post bail, but they are usually released to their parents after an arraignment in juvenile court.
- Right to Counsel – Minors involved in juvenile proceedings have the right to an attorney as stated in the 1967 US Supreme Court “In re Gault.” If the minor has no means to afford an attorney, the state should provide him or her one.
- Notice – The minor should be given notice of the delinquency case charged against him or her as stated in the “In re Gault” as well.
- Question Witnesses – In Juvenile delinquency proceedings minors have the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. This means they can question the witnesses through their attorney.
- Right against self-incrimination – This means a minor can choose not to testify against him or herself.
- No jury trial – States usually don’t allow jury trial when minors are involved in juvenile delinquency cases.
- Beyond reasonable doubt – The state must prove that the charges against the minor are beyond reasonable doubt if the juvenile faces adjudication or incarceration
To make sure that the minor facing a juvenile delinquency proceeding enjoys all his or her rights, it is always best to consult and hire the proper attorney.