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Rights of Juveniles in Missouri

You've probably seen TV shows where a cop arrests someone and says, "You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…" and so on.  Police advising people of certain rights before questioning them is an example a constitutional protection.  Children are afforded many of the same protections given to adults.  See In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967) (juveniles entitled to notice of the charges, counsel, confrontation of witnesses, and the privilege against self-incrimination).  Constitutional law is a beast in itself, so for purposes here, we'll keep things focused on some basic protections in the Missouri juvenile justice system.

Juvenile Miranda Warnings

Like our above example, when children are arrested in Missouri, law enforcement officials are required to advise them that:

  • They have the right to remain silent;

  • Any statement they make can and may be used against them in juvenile court;

  • They have the right to have a parent, guardian, or custodian present during questioning;

  • They have the right to consult with an attorney, and that an attorney will be appointed and paid for them if they cannot afford one;

  • They have the right to stop talking at any time; and

  • Any statement they make can and may be used against them in a criminal court if the child is "certified" to be tried as an adult.


Sometimes during questioning, a representative of the local Juvenile Officer may be present along with the police to ensure the child's rights are protected during the interview.  That representative is not to engage in any questioning about the alleged offense, but if need be, he or she can stop the police from asking questions if the juvenile wants the interview to stop.  

Rights if Child is Placed in Detention

If a child is arrested and placed in detention, he or she cannot be held for more than 24 hours without a court order.  The Juvenile Officer or someone at the detention facility is required to notify the child's parents of the arrest as soon as possible.  The court is then required to hold a Detention Hearing within three days (excluding weekends and holidays). 

If the court decides that continued detention is appropriate, an Adjudication Hearing (or trial) is to be held at the earliest possible date. 

Right to Counsel


Children are entitled to representation by an attorney, whether hired or appointed, in any delinquency or status offense proceeding.  A child can waive this right only under limited circumstances and with court approval.

Quick Proceedings

Despite adults having the "right to a speedy trial," criminal cases can sometimes last a long time before the proceedings finally end.  Missouri juvenile cases, however, tend to be much faster and are often resolved within a couple months.  If a child is held in detention, there is even more pressure on the court and Juvenile Officer to try and finalize the case as quickly as possible.

Closed Records

In general, juvenile records, including social files and records from the proceedings, are to be kept confidential.  Only if a child is adjudicated delinquent for a felony offense will the records of his or her Disposition Hearing and other proceedings be open to the public.

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