Generally speaking, juveniles should be afforded the same basic constitutional rights that adults have in criminal cases. However, they do not always enjoy the same level of protection.
Constitutional Rights for Juveniles in Custody
The Right to Remain Silent / Right Against Self-Incrimination
As a juvenile, you have the right to remain silent when being questioned by police under the Fifth Amendment. The Constitution also guarantees that—regardless of age—you cannot be required to testify in open court if, by testifying, you would be incriminating yourself.
The Right to Counsel
All juveniles are afforded their Sixth Amendment right to have counsel present at their hearings and present evidence on their behalf. If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to be appointed counsel to represent your legal interests.
The Right of Confrontation
Under the Sixth Amendment, you have the right to cross-examine witnesses that testify or give statements against you. The evidentiary rules are very much the same in juvenile court as they are in an adult criminal court. For example, out-of-court statements offered to prove something (known as hearsay) must satisfy an exception under the rules of evidence, or they will not be admitted in your case.
As a juvenile, you will also enjoy the following rights and other constitutional protections:
- Right to a speedy trial
- Right to advance notice of the charges against you
- Right to the presumption of innocence / burden on the state to prove allegations against you
- Right to exclude illegally obtained evidence
No Right to a Jury Trial
In a juvenile case, there is no constitutional right to a trial by a jury of your peers. Instead, the court or a judge will make fact-finding decisions, and they alone decide your guilt or innocence.
No Right to Bail
There is no constitutional right to bail for juveniles. This means that it is entirely up to the court whether you can be held in custody until your trial. However, the judge may release you to your parents before the trial. It is very important that your lawyer makes the right arguments to keep you out of juvenile hall.
Contact a Juvenile Criminal Attorney
If you or a loved one has a child who’s been charged with a crime, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.
This article was originally posted at www.wklaw.com, and is reprinted with permission. The writer retains all copyrights.