Juvenile Defenders

Juvenile defenders play an important role in helping ensure young people charged with status offenses do not slip deeper into the justice system or experience the negative outcomes associated with system involvement.

CJJ released Guidance for Juvenile Defenders in Status Offense Cases, which outlines the important issues to consider in status offenses cases.

Research indicates that formal justice system processing in and of itself can have a negative impact on youth, increasing the likelihood of future justice system involvement.1

Legal, judicial, and social service providers should apply a child- and family-centric approach to status offense cases. There are several ways system stakeholders can better integrate the principles of safety, permanency, and well-being into status offense cases. See Section 1.1 of the National Standards for Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses for more details.

Juvenile counsel should advocate for voluntary and community-based assistance to limit and/or avoid continued court involvement and secure confinement. There are many steps attorneys can take to promote voluntary service alternatives for their clients and strategies to help clients avoid deeper justice system involvement and secure confinement. See Section 3.9 for more details.

Juvenile counsel should advocate that child clients be treated fairly throughout the court process and that their due process rights be protected. There are many ways that a young person’s lawyer can help ensure fair treatment, such as assuring the client is present for each court hearing or protecting the client’s privacy rights when mental health screenings or assessments are introduced. See Section 3.10 for more details.

Juvenile defenders should also protect the child client’s rights and entitlements. As illustrated in the commentary to this section, there are several entitlements or laws that may be applicable to a young person in the status offense system, such as Medicaid, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Indian Child Welfare Act. See Section 3.11 for more details.

This page was adapted from the National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses. 

1 Allina Boutilier and Marcia Cohen. (2009). Diversion Literature Review. OJJDP.