Juvenile crime is an area of criminal law that deals with the criminal activities of offenders who have not reached eighteen years of age. Typically, juvenile offenders will receive less severe forms of punishment than that of an adult and will enter the juvenile justice system rather than the adult criminal system
When a person under the age of 18 (a “youth”) commits an offense that would be a crime if they were an adult, the juvenile court may take jurisdiction over them as a result of the offense. These offenses can result in incarceration and long-term consequences, as with crimes committed by adults. Consequently, proof in these cases also must be to a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. The accused youth has a right to counsel, including court appointed counsel. However, the accused youth does not have a right to jury trial.
The focus of the juvenile delinquency system leans more toward reform of the youth rather than punishment. The aim is to redirect the behavior of the youth so that the youth will hopefully not be committing crimes as an adult. There are some offenses which, depending on the age of the youth, may be referred to adult court instead. These include some very serious offenses, driving offenses, and violations of hunting and fishing laws.
Contempt is generally not a crime in Oregon, although some violations of restraining orders are. Contempt is the court’s authority to enforce its own orders via fines or incarceration. If a party, often but not always the State, alleges that another party is in contempt of court and asks for incarceration as a sanction, Oregon provides a right to counsel for the accused. This could be for violations of restraining orders, child support orders, or any other type of court order. Contempt may be enforced in a punitive way by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine. An ongoing contempt may be dealt with by the court in a remedial action involving holding the contemnor in jail until the contempt is remedied (for example, a person refusing to testify when ordered to do so by the court). There is no right to a jury trial for contempt of court.
When a person is alleged to be mentally ill and consequently a danger to themselves or others or are unable to care for themselves and is unable or unwilling to voluntarily get the necessary treatment, they may be involuntarily confined to a mental health facility until they get better. The court has to approve this involuntary confinement for up to 6 months at a time through a contested hearing process called Civil Commitment. The alleged mentally ill person (AMIP) does not have right to a jury trial but does have a right to court appointed counsel.
Child Welfare cases involve state interference with the right of a mother or father or guardian to parent children, often by removal of the children and placement in foster care.
Oregon provides a right to counsel in such actions. Although the right is not so absolute as it is with criminal cases, the Oregon juvenile courts make great effort to make sure that there are attorneys for the parents, the children, and any legal guardian. These cases do not generate a right to jury trial, and as with most other types of cases affecting child custody, proof is usually only to a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, aka “more likely than not.” Exceptions include Indian Child Welfare Act cases in which the proof is to a higher “clear and convincing” standard. Parents and children and legal guardians do have a right to a trial in which the evidence rules apply.
In order for the juvenile court to take jurisdiction over the child it must be proven that circumstances endanger the child and that it is “likely that serious loss or harm” to the child will occur without the juvenile court’s intervention. The majority of children are returned to a parent, sooner or later, but some end up in guardianships or adoptions. These cases often involve a lot of social work, and the juvenile defense system is expanding the use of case managers to help families with this.