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National Juvenile Defense Standards

NCJ Number
Date Published
166 pages

These National Juvenile Defense Standards were developed in order to strengthen and clarify legal defense practices on behalf of juveniles.


Over a 5-year period under the rubric of the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network, these standards were drafted, promulgated, and reviewed by multidisciplinary teams with the guidance and support of juvenile indigent defense experts and consultants from across the Nation. The standards incorporate what research has found regarding adolescent development and social science relevant to youth development in an effort to strengthen the legal defense of juveniles. The standards are intended for the training and ongoing guidance of attorneys in their legal defense of juveniles in accordance with constitutional due process rights. The intent of the standards is to provide detailed guidance to attorneys on the enforcement of a juvenile client's due process rights; the presentation of both the legal case and the social case; the promotion of accuracy in facts upon which decisions are made that affect the juvenile defendant; the presentation of alternatives for decisionmakers that are in the best interests of the juvenile; and the monitoring of institutional treatment, aftercare, and reentry. The standards are presented in 10 categories related to various functions of defense counsel in representing juveniles. The standards in these categories address the general role of juvenile defense counsel; the role of juvenile defense counsel in the attorney-client relationship; juvenile defense counsel's role from arrest to initial proceedings; defense counsel's role during the pretrial phase; defense counsel's role at adjudicatory hearings and trials; juvenile counsel's role at disposition hearings; and his/her role after disposition, when the client faces the risk of adult prosecution, the role of the defense attorney's supervisor, and addressing system deficiencies.