Philadelphia Criminal Law News

How Do Juvenile Criminal Proceedings Work in Pennsylvania?

When children are up to no good, they may find themselves in the juvenile justice system.

In Pennsylvania, a child 10 years or older can be found as a juvenile delinquent.

Cases of juvenile delinquency involve children who violated the law in a way that, if committed by an adult, would be considered a crime.

Juvenile proceedings in Pennsylvania typically begin when a law enforcement officer or district attorney files a court petition.

Once the petition is filed, a judge will hold a hearing to determine whether there's enough evidence indicating the juvenile committed the crime. If a judge determines the child is guilty, he or she will sentence your child to some form of treatment, supervision, rehabilitation, or confinement.

Juvenile proceedings differ from adult criminal proceedings. They don't have all of the same constitutional rights as adults do. For example, juvenile hearings are heard by judges because youthful offenders don't have the right to a trial by jury of their peers. They also don't have the right to bail or to a public trial.

But juveniles also have extra protections that they wouldn't get in an adult criminal court. In most cases, their records are sealed. It's also not uncommon for the records to be expunged when the juvenile turns 18, if he or she has met certain conditions.

Like adult criminal proceedings, the right to counsel exists in the juvenile justice system. A child has a right to an attorney. If the juvenile offender's parents can't afford one, the child will receive a court-appointed attorney.

In both juvenile dependency and delinquency hearings, parents also have a right to an attorney. If the parents of a juvenile offender can't afford an attorney, the court will appoint a lawyer for them. This is because the child's attorney only represents the child and not the parents.

Related Resources: