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Basics on Juvenile Delinquency

In juvenile delinquency cases, a child (less than 18 years old) is alleged to have broken a law ranging from being out past curfew to a charge of murder. Special court procedures have been created to deal with children who break the law that are separate from the adult criminal process. Most Juvenile Court delinquency cases are not open to the public, except for serious crimes committed by children over the age of 16. Juvenile Court judges and staff work with other government agencies and community organizations to develop programs that help to ensure a safe and healthy environment for juveniles.

What is a Juvenile Delinquency Matter?


Delinquency matters include any felony, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor, and petty misdemeanor offenses allegedly committed by a person less than eighteen (18) years old.

Juvenile Delinquency Court Process

Prosecutor Files Petition
The State files a Petition or Citation in District Court stating the alleged charge.

Juvenile and Parents/Guardians Receive Summons
Most delinquency cases filed in District Court begin with the child and their parent(s)/guardian(s) being "summoned" by U.S. Mail to appear in court to respond to allegations in the Petition or Citation. If the child was detained in a secure facility, s/he will be brought to court within 36 hours of the date of the arrest.

Felony Charges Require Fingerprinting
If the child has been charged with a felony level offense, the child must be fingerprinted prior to his or her first court appearance. Each new felony case requires fingerprinting, even if the child has been fingerprinted on prior cases.

First Court Appearance and Legal Counsel
At the time of the first court appearance, the parent/guardian may apply for the services of a court-appointed attorney if the level of offense qualifies. Court appointed attorneys are not available for petty misdemeanor charges. For misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony matters, the parents of the child may complete an application for a court appointed attorney. The judge will review the application prior to the court appearance to determine eligibility. If the parents do not qualify for a court appointed attorney, they may hire a private attorney at their own expense. Go to Find a Lawyer.

Finding of Delinquency
If the charge is proven in court, the court may make a finding of delinquency and the child may be adjudicated as "delinquent."

"Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile " until Age 21
Juvenile criminal matters may include "Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile" (EJJ) where the child may have a "stayed" (postponed or delayed) adult sentence until the child's 21st birthday, and the child is then placed on extended probation. (See MN Rule of Juvenile Court Procedure #19 and MN Stat. § 260B.130.)

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Juvenile Traffic Offender

A juvenile traffic offender is any child alleged to have committed a traffic offense, except those children under the jurisdiction of adult court as provided in MN Stat. § 260B.225. A traffic offense is any violation of a state or local traffic law, ordinance, or regulation, or a federal, state or local water traffic law.

Certifying a Minor as an Adult

In some cases, the court can "certify" a child to be tried as an adult. A prosecutor starts the adult certification process filing a "motion" (a formal request) after a delinquency Petition has been filed. Juveniles must be at least fourteen (14) to seventeen (17) years old and the alleged offender must meet certain criteria for a motion to certify as an adult can be filed.

If a child is certified as an adult, the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over the case ends, and the case is transferred to adult criminal court. (See MN Rule of Juvenile Procedure #18 and MN Stat. § 260B.125)

Limited Public Access to Juvenile Delinquency Cases

Generally, juvenile cases are confidential. However, the Petition's "statement of probable cause" and the hearing in felony cases are part of the public record if the juvenile was at least sixteen (16) at the time the alleged offense was committed.

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