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Juveniles have most of the rights that adults have under the United States Constitution.


For a law enforcement officer to search anyone, including a juvenile, there must be probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. Probable cause means that the officer has reason to believe beyond just a suspicion that the juvenile committed the crime. 

One exception to this rule is in the schools. School officials such as the principal or teachers do not always need probable cause to search a student; they are not law enforcement officials. Check with your school for more information about their search policies.


​At the time a minor is arrested, that child’s parents are usually contacted by the officer making the arrest or by the CDW; however, the juvenile in custody will usually be allowed to call his parents, attorney, or another person. By asking to speak to an attorney, the juvenile invokes his Miranda Rights.  Miranda Rights tell a person in custody that they have a right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, and that anything they say can be used against them.


Juveniles do not have the right to have bail set in their cases. Juveniles will either be sent home with a parent or guardian or will be placed in the detention center.  If they are placed in the detention center, they have the right to a detention hearing within 48 hours, not including holidays and weekends.


Although the Supreme Court of the United States gives all people, including juveniles the right to an attorney, Kentucky courts go a step farther. In Kentucky, juveniles must have an attorney when they are in Juvenile Court.  If a juvenile or his parents cannot afford an attorney, a free attorney from the Department of Public Advocacy (the Public Defender) will be appointed.  A parent must show that they are not financially able to hire their own attorney to get free legal services. 


If a parent is the victim of the crime allegedly committed by the juvenile, the parent will not have to hire an attorney for the juvenile. If the parent is a victim the judge will generally appoint a Public Defender.

Even if a public defender is appointed, the parents or juvenile can still decide to hire an attorney.


Juveniles must be told what they are charged with.  At arraignment, the judge reads the charges to the defendant. Sometimes a defense attorney says, “we waive a formal reading of the charges,” that means that the attorney has already explained the charges to the defendant and does not need the judge to read them aloud in court.


​A trial in juvenile court is called an Adjudication Hearing. It is not a trial by jury but a hearing in front of the judge. Because all juvenile proceedings are confidential, there are no jurors and no trial by jury; the judge makes the final decision on the case.


​A juvenile has the right to confront all witnesses against him or her. That means the people who say they know what the juvenile did, have to come and tell the judge in person and in front of the juvenile. The defense attorney can then cross examine the witnesses (ask them questions).


The right not to incriminate yourself is given to all US Citizens through the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution including juveniles, so a juvenile cannot be forced to testify against himself or herself.


To be found guilty of public offenses or offenses that could cause the juvenile to be placed in a secure detention center, the prosecutor must prove the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This has been explained as more than a suspicion or a hunch. The judge must be given actual evidence that the juvenile did what he or she is accused of doing. That evidence can be in the form of testimony of witnesses, documents, audio recordings, photos, videos, or a combination of many types of evidence.

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