Laws regarding Pennsylvania Minors
PA Juvenile Delinquency Laws
Juvenile delinquency actions can commonly be thought of as court action involving a minor child who is believed to have committed a crime. In juvenile law, the term "delinquent act" is used rather than the term "crime." Further, because a juvenile is involved, the case is handled in special proceedings designed for juvenile matters rather than through adult criminal court proceedings. Juveniles charged with serious crimes may face a detention hearing whereby a juvenile court hearing officer or juvenile court judge will decide whether the juvenile may be released to his or her parents or whether the juvenile should be detained in a facility such as Shuman Center located in Allegheny County pending the adjudication at the juvenile delinquency hearing. It is important to remember that neither the juvenile nor the parents of the accused juvenile should make any statements to police prior to speaking with an attorney.
Juveniles who have been found to have committed a delinquent act are not sent to an adult prison; however, a juvenile may be sent to a juvenile detention facility. Delinquent children with a prior history are often sent to more serious detention facilities such as New Castle Youth Development Center (YDC) which is considered to be a maximum security facility for juveniles. Most counties have specialized placement programs for delinquent children with drug and alcohol problems or who have committed sex crimes. Juveniles who have been found to have committed less serious delinquent acts may be allowed to remain in their home under the supervision of a juvenile court probation officer.
Juvenile Dependency Laws in Pennsylvania
Juvenile dependency actions are commonly actions brought by the county child welfare agency (often called CYF or the Office of Children, Youth & Families) claiming that a parent or guardian has committed child abuse or child neglect. A child can also be found to be a dependent child if the child's parents or guardian cannot control the actions of a child. This situation often occurs when a child refuses to go to school or is a runaway. In addition to the local child welfare office, any interested individual is permitted to commence a juvenile dependency action. The interested individual may be a parent who is attempting to care for an unruly child, a teacher, police officer, neighbor or other person. A child who is declared to be a dependent child may be allowed to remain in the care of his or her parent or guardian under the supervision of the court and a CYF caseworker, be placed with a foster parent or foster family, or be placed in a facility designed for dependent children. Parents whose children have been removed from their care have a limited amount of time to rectify the problems that led to the child's placement and to seek reunification of their family. If reunification does not happen within a certain time, CYF may seek to terminate the parent's parental rights to the minor child and allow the child to be adopted by third parties.
What to Do if served With a Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Notice?
Our Pennsylvania law firm has extensive experience in juvenile court matters. Attorney Lisa Marie Vari was formerly employed in the Juvenile Court section, as well as the Adult Sections, of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County as former Administrative Judge Max Baer's Staff Attorney.
Juvenile court matters often arise with little advance notice to the parent or guardian. Furthermore, in initial proceedings, the technical rules regarding courtroom procedure are sometimes not applicable. If served with any type of notice that a juvenile court proceeding is scheduled, the parent or guardian of the subject child should immediately contact our Pittsburgh office at (412) 281-9906, Southpointe (Canonsburg, Washington County) at 724-436-5500, Cranberry Township (Butler County, PA) at 724-776-9906 or toll-free at 1-855-VARI-LAW (1-855-827-4529). Our Pittsburgh and Southpointe law offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and evenings by appointment. Our Cranberry Township office is open by appointment only.
Appointments may also be available in other meeting locations throughout Western Pennsylvania upon advance arrangements with our office. Ask the secretary scheduling your appointment for details including appointment locations.
Our Western PA family law office routinely accepts juvenile delinquency and juvenile dependency cases in Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Lawrence County, Mercer County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County. Our Pittsburgh juvenile court attorneys accept Pennsylvania juvenile law cases in other Western PA counties such as Armstrong County, Erie County, Fayette County, Greene County, Somerset County and Venango County on a case-by-case basis.
Low income parents in Allegheny County who cannot afford to hire a private attorney should contact the Juvenile Court Project at (412) 391-4467 to obtain a Parent Advocate attorney if their matter involves a dependency or termination of parental rights matter in Allegheny County. All children in dependency matters are appointed a Child Advocate to represent their legal interests. In Allegheny County, KidsVoice can be contacted at (412) 391-3100. In addition, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer may also be assigned to the dependency case.
Parents of juveniles accused of committing a delinquent act may contact the Allegheny County Public Defenders' office at (412) 350-2401 to obtain representation for their child if they cannot afford to hire a private juvenile delinquency attorney.
Click here to read notable Pennsylvania juvenile law cases.