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Juvenile Justice: Juvenile Court

Origins, Expansion, Retrenchment, Structure, Personnel, Process, Caseload, Juvenile Rights, Continuing Controversies

Juvenile courts in the United States are legally responsible for young people who are arrested by the police or otherwise accused of breaking the criminal laws of their community. Some areas of the country do not have courts actually called juvenile courts. Law violations by young people may be handled by probate courts, juvenile divisions of a circuit court, or even comprehensive family courts. In every community, however, some form of court is charged with responding to cases in which a person under the age of adulthood (a juvenile) is suspected of breaking the law. Since these courts have jurisdiction over juveniles and they follow the same general principles of juvenile law, it is conventional to refer to them simply as juvenile courts.

Many juvenile courts handle other types of cases. They often handle dependency cases (or matters involving abused and neglected children) and youth charged with noncriminal acts (or status offenses) such as curfew violations, running away from home, and truancy. Other juvenile courts (especially those known as family courts) may handle domestic violence and child custody matters. Typically, however, a juvenile court's caseload is made up of law violations, status offenders, and dependency cases. Law violations usually account for about half of this workload.


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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law