Quick Info: Juvenile Arrest and Charging


Children under the age of 8 are presumed incapable of committing crimes.  Children between the ages of 8 and 12 are also presumed incapable of committing crimes but this presumption can be overcome if it is proven that they can understand their act or neglect and know that it is wrong. Juveniles 12 and older can be charged with crimes.  Children’s parents cannot be charged as accomplices simply for being parents but they are required to accompany their children to court and to meet certain expectations.  The police can investigate, question and arrest kids just as with adults. The county prosecutor has a prosecuting attorney (or attorneys) who are assigned to review police investigations and charge youth with criminal offenses.


Children can be investigated, interrogated by police, arrested, detained and charged for any offense that an adult can be charged with.  Although children can be charged with criminal offenses, a court order finding that they are “guilty” of the offense is NOT a criminal conviction.  However, a juvenile adjudication is still a matter of public record and appears in criminal and court databases accessible to the public.  In other words, it looks exactly like a conviction.


Charges can be “rush filed” (i.e., within 72 hours) or they can take days or several weeks to file. The shortest “statute of limitations” for criminal offenses is one year from the date of the incident and the statute gets longer from there.  Further, the authorities do not have to tell a suspect when or if charges will be filed.  There is no process for notifying parents if charges will be filed and when. There is no process for notifying parents if no charge will be filed at all. 


Everywhere there is a police department, which is everywhere, an arrest of a juvenile and a criminal investigation can take place.  Most juvenile offenses are handled in the county’s juvenile court.  Some offenses are so serious that even though committed by a juvenile, jurisdiction over the juvenile and the case is sent to adult court.  Other less serious cases, like traffic infractions or criminal traffic cases, are handled by adult court for youth who are 16 years of age and older.


Police investigate criminal allegations because someone makes a complaint. The investigation may result in arrest or it may not.  If arrested, the child will be taken to juvenile detention (not adult jail) and will go before a judge to have the decision to arrest reviewed and to have his custody status reviewed.  The prosecutor may choose to rush file a charge or not.  Even without an arrest or detention, the police reports can be sent to the prosecutor’s office and reviewed for filing of charges.  Once the prosecutor files charges, the case will proceed on a faster timeline than adult cases.  Juvenile’s who are not in detention have a right to have a trial within 60 days of the first hearing.  There are many options for handling a juvenile case and for achieving good outcomes.

However, this is where the quick overview ends. Each case is unique and the best approach and defense is varied.  A strong and informed case strategy by a knowledgeable juvenile criminal defense attorney requires establishing a working relationship as soon as possible.

Liza Burke Law PLLC
(206) 933-2414