Children are not entitled to a jury trial in juvenile court. Trials in juvenile court are heard typically by juvenile court judges who practice exclusively in juvenile/family court. These courts were created to protect the confidentiality of family matters and to address the specific needs attributed to these types of cases.
When seeking legal representation for a child, consideration should be given to lawyers who have experience in juvenile/family court. The rules and practices are generally unique and specific to the juvenile/family courts. Therefore, lawyers who regularly practices before the juvenile/family court would likely possess superior knowledge in this area that would be beneficial to the child.
A Right to Counsel
Children can be interrogated by law enforcement officials without the parent's presence and consent. However, the United State Supreme Court has extended the right to counsel to all critical phases of the prosecution of a juvenile. Therefore, children should know that they have the right to have counsel present when being questioned and should never waive that right.
Parents and children do not generally enjoy a confidentiality privilege between them unlike the privilege that exists between husband and wife. Therefore, if a child discusses his/her criminal/juvenile case with a parent, he/she may be called as a witness to divulge what the child has said about his/her role in the matter. Thus, children should discuss their criminal/juvenile case only with their legal counsel to avoid this potential problem.
Additional resources provided by the author
National Juvenile Defender Center, 1350 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 304, Washington, D.C. 20036.
(202) 452-0010 (phone) (202) 452-1205 (fax)
The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, 633 Indiana Avenue, Washington, DC, (202) 628-1200 (phone) (202) 824-2362 (fax)