The Rights of Juveniles Who Are Arrested

Everyone in the United States has basic rights when placed under arrest, like the right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present during questioning.

Juveniles, defined as young people under the age of 18, have these rights plus others under Mississippi Youth Court laws.  If the police arrest a juvenile and place him in youth detention, the officer taking the child into custody shall immediately notify the youth court judge or higher designee. He shall also make continuing reasonable efforts to notify the child's parent, guardian, or custodian and invite the parent, guardian, or custodian to be present during any questioning.

A juvenile is photographed and fingerprinted only when the crime is a felony or involves the possession or use of a dangerous weapon.  While the police may take a blood sample or administer a breathalyzer test on a juvenile, they cannot pump the youth's stomach for evidence. In a line-up for witness identification purposes, the others in the line-up must resemble the suspect.

Youth court laws divide misdeeds by juveniles into three categories. Status offenses, actions by someone between the ages of 7 and 18, include being habitually disobedient to a parent or guardian; willfully and habitually violating school rules or being absent; and running away from
home without good reason.

Criminal offenses are the most serious crimes which carry a penalty of life imprisonment or death, like murder or armed robbery. A juvenile over the age of 13 charged with such a crime stands trial as an adult in criminal court.

Aside from the criminal offenses mentioned above, a delinquent act is an action by a juvenile that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult. A youth court judge hears the case, which is a civil proceeding, although he may choose to transfer the case to adult criminal court. Youth court is closed to the public and held without a jury.

With status offenses and delinquent acts, the judge decides the appropriate action to correct the juvenile's behavior.  If the youth is declared a delinquent, the judge may order the youth to a state-supported training school. The school superintendent determines when to release the youth, but it must occur before he or she turns 20.

Youth court records are generally kept confidential, and the court can order records sealed when the juvenile reaches age 20 or when a case is set aside or dismissed. However, exceptions do exist when records can be opened.