Connecticut Juvenile Defense Frequently Asked Questions
What happens when my child is arrested with a criminal offense?
When the parents and the juvenile appear in court, the juvenile must be represented by an attorney. If the family is indigent under the federal guidelines, upon completion of an affidavit of income and assets, the Public Defender's Office may be appointed.
What is juvenile court?
Children who break the law are subject to a separate judicial system called the juvenile court system. Generally, the focus of the juvenile court system is more on rehabilitation than on punishment. In some cases, however, older juveniles who commit crimes that are serious will be charged as adults and tried in the adult criminal courts. In such cases, sentences will be in accord with adult punishment, whereas in juvenile court any incarceration is usually in a rehabilitative setting.
What is an "adjudication"?
An adjudication is a finding by a juvenile court that a child committed a delinquent act. An adjudication is generally not considered a conviction for a crime and will not deprive the juvenile of civil rights, such as the right to vote.
What is a guardian ad litem?
In general, because a minor in most cases cannot initiate or defend lawsuits without adult assistance, a court will appoint a guardian ad litem for a minor appearing in court in order to ensure that the minor's interests are adequately represented. While parents usually serve as the guardian, a guardian ad litem may be appointed if a parent or general guardian is unavailable, incompetent, or has conflicting interests. Any person, including non-lawyers, may be appointed to serve in the capacity of a guardian ad litem. Some states have mandatory training in order to qualify as a guardian ad litem, while other states have no training or standards. Various terms exist for guardians ad litem, including Court Appointed Special Advocate, law guardian, or next friend.
Guardians ad litem perform various functions depending upon the state and type of court. In general, they serve one of three purposes: (1) to protect a child's "best interests"; (2) to be an independent fact-finder for the judge; or (3) to follow and advocate the child's wishes. The appointment of guardians ad litem are generally considered to be within the discretionary powers of the court. They are often appointed in adoption, child custody, child support, paternity, visitation rights, and child abuse cases. Guardians ad litem have also been appointed to represent the interests of unborn heirs who are beneficiaries to a trust, in cases involving wills and trusts, and when a child has an interest in an insurance policy or some other benefit.
Are children locked up in the same places as adults?
Federal law strongly discourages keeping children confined with adult offenders or suspects. The law requires physical and visual separation of juveniles and adults. Usually, a child is to be confined with adults for no more than six hours, while awaiting a transfer to a juvenile facility.
Since the goal of the juvenile court system is to rehabilitate rather than punish, juveniles who are incarcerated are sent to places different from adult jails. Many juvenile facilities are more like an ordinary residence than a prison. If your child is detained in Connecticut, he or she will be held in one of these detention facilities. (links to juvenile detention page)