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Children’s right to counsel in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Jul 27, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Children have the right to legal counsel when it has been proven or alleged that they are a dependent child, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure. Youths’ right to counsel in juvenile court proceedings became a constitutional right in 1967. Currently in Pennsylvania, a child’s right to counsel involves Statutes Title 42 Pa.C.S.A. Judiciary and Judicial Procedure § 6337.1.

The assumption that every child is in need

In criminal cases of delinquincy, it is the presumption that any children involved are indigent. This means that they are disadvantaged or in need of help and should be treated as such.

This presumption of indigence may be rebutted if evidence is presented which shows that the child did have the ability to pay for legal counsel on their own. However, this doesn’t include how much money their parent, guardian, or custodian may have.

What happens when a child shows up to court with no legal counsel?

In juvenile law cases where an underage person lacks counsel when they appear at their hearing, legal counsel is appointed by the court before the hearing commences. If the child is at least 14 years old, they may choose to waive their right to counsel.

After an allegation has been submitted in writing, a juvenile probation officer will conduct the child’s intake conference. If the alleged delinquent appears with legal counsel at that time, it isn’t required that they have legal counsel during the proceeding itself.

When allegations have been made against a minor in Pennsylvania, they have the right to legal counsel. In the process of determining whether or not a child is financially able to retain counsel throughout their proceedings, the court is not allowed to consider the financial resources of guardians or family members. The court will appoint legal counsel to minors who show up to their hearing without any.