What Happens in A Juvenile Delinquency Case?
By Laura McElroy

When a juvenile is found in violation of a law, the criminal procedure is completely different from that of an adult. Each state has its own set of laws that apply to juvenile delinquency cases in an effort to protect minors. While many minors receive a delinquency judgment, the outcome can be influenced by the people involved in the case.

In a delinquency case, the minor’s actions are considered a crime against the State, and the State has to bring charges. A delinquent act would constitute a crime if the perpetrator were over the age of 18. However, while most adult criminal cases result in jail time, juveniles found guilty of delinquency are rehabilitated.

What is an act of delinquency?

When juveniles commit offenses, they are not referred to as crimes. An offense committed by a juvenile is referred to as a delinquent act. An act of delinquency can fall within two categories: serious offenses and “status” offenses.

A delinquent act that would be considered a crime if the perpetrator were over the age of 18 is a serious offense. In some places, if the delinquent act is particularly serious, such as murder, the juvenile may be tried as an adult. For less serious offenses, the juvenile is tried as a child and the parents are expected to field the costs. 

Police interaction with juveniles

Police interaction with juveniles occurs through two main pathways. In some cases, a juvenile is arrested by the police for being caught engaging in delinquent acts. In other cases, juveniles are referred to the police by parents or school administrators. Once the police have contact with a juvenile, there are three main ways for the juvenile to be dealt with.

The police might choose to issue a warning and release the minor immediately. In some cases, the police officer might issue a warning and then hold the minor until they can be released into parental custody. Finally, the minor may remain in police custody and be expected to appear in court. 

Police brutality in juvenile cases

In March 2019, two sisters were arrested for creating a disturbance after school. When police were called to break up the argument, the girls jumped onto the police, which resulted in one of the sisters being restrained in accordance with the law. 

The police arrest was filmed, and a video found its way to the internet. The restrained sibling opened a case of police brutality which has since been dismissed.

Police brutality is largely uncommon in juvenile cases since acts of delinquency tend to not be violent or serious. However, if you believe your underage child was manhandled during the arrest process, it is important to hire police brutality lawyers to fight your case.

Court processing

When a police officer refers to a juvenile case to the courts, a juvenile court intake officer takes over the case. This officer may choose to dismiss the case, handle it informally, or file charges. When the officer is deciding how to proceed with the case, they will take several things into consideration.

The intake officer would consider the severity of the offense, the age of the minor, previous offenses, evidence in the case, the minor’s gender, the juvenile’s social interactions, and whether the minor’s parents can control their behavior. If your child’s case is expected to face formal proceedings, contact USAttorneys.com to represent their case.


Most juveniles are not detained beyond 48 hours. Extended detention periods are only applied in the case of serious offenses such as violent crimes. However, juveniles typically don’t get detained in a facility, but are rather sentenced to community service or other rehabilitative services. Juveniles are expected to be rehabilitated and return to normal societal functions. Most juveniles are not expected to commit an offense again.


Don't miss out on a thriving career.