The juvenile justice system refers to the area of criminal law applied to offenders who are too young to be held accountable under the adult criminal justice system. The age at which one is held criminally responsible for their actions is generally 18 years of age, however, it is set by state law and varies by jurisdiction. Many states have also enacted juvenile laws or a juvenile code which outlines various methods for handling crimes committed by minors. Some states may even have separate juvenile courts to adjudicate such issues. The term “juvenile delinquency” refers to any crime that can be committed by an adult, but is committed by a minor. The juvenile justice system differs primarily from the general criminal justice system in that its focus is on treatment and rehabilitation rather than deterrence. Although in some circumstances juveniles may be treated as adults in a criminal case, youths are generally considered less culpable than adult criminal defendants and are thus afforded more lenience in their punishment.
To learn more about the area of Juvenile Justice, the following links and general collection of web pages may be helpful:
To learn more about Juvenile Court and Court Rules, the following links may be helpful:
The best search to run in the law library catalog to find materials on a particular topic is a keyword search.
The library has many databases available to current law students, faculty, and staff. These databases are especially useful when access to Westlaw/Lexis is limited. They provide a vast wealth of information. Be sure to utilize these resources! For additional information on finding general resources, see the General Resource Guide. The resources mentioned in this section are limited to use by the Suffolk law school community.
General Information: The Criminal Law Reporter (BNA) database may be particularly useful for researching current issues in criminal law and juvenile justice.
Law Review & Journal Articles:
Links to Massachusetts and Federal sources mentioned in this section are to free sources of law. These sources may not be updated frequently and are not annotated.
Massachusetts Statutes: Juvenile Law in Massachusetts is primarily governed by Mass General Laws c. 119 § 52-72B focus on Delinquent Children
Massachusetts Regulations: 109 CMR 2-12 “Juvenile Offenders”
Boe, 456 Mass. 337 (2010)
Judges have the authority to order the commissioner of probation to expunge a defendant’s record where the criminal complaint was dismissed because it was premised on a mistake.
Dep’t of Youth Services, 453 Mass. 179 (2009)
The Court held that the statute which permitted youths to remain committed to the custody of the Department of Youth Services after the juvenile’s eighteenth birthday if DYS determined that the youth would be physically dangerous to the public was not constitutional because the statute failed to require a link between the youth's alleged dangerousness and a mental condition or defect making the youth incapable of controlling his or her behavior, and failed to sufficiently define “dangerousness,” which left the term unconstitutionally vague.
v. Keon K., 70 Mass. App. Ct. 568 (2007)
Judges may rely on past sexual assault when making a sentencing decision.
Gavin G., 437 Mass. 470 (2002)
The Court held that the Juvenile Court lacks the authority to expunge a juvenile’s probation records, even when the youth was wrongfully or mistakenly accused of criminal conduct, because it is not authorized by the detailed statutory scheme designed to protect the confidentiality of juvenile court proceedings and juvenile records. The remedy provided by law allows for sealing such records in due time, not for immediate sealing.
Florence F., 429 Mass. 523 (1999)
This case established that the Juvenile Court does not have the power to issue contempt orders against a juvenile when the youth is the subject of a children in need of services (CHINS) proceeding and fails to comply with a condition of their custody.
v. Perry P., 36 Mass. App. Ct. 914 (1994)
The court held that a juvenile charged with first degree murder was amenable to rehabilitation within the juvenile justice system, despite being a current danger to the public, based on evidence by a clinical psychologist.
Charles C. v.
Commonwealth, 415 Mass. 58 (1993)
This case established that when juveniles are indicted for murder, the Superior Court may transfer the case to Juvenile Court. It is within the legislature’s power to extend the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court to include criminal cases involving alleged juvenile murderers.
Annotated Constitution of the United States
Title 42, Chapter 72 United States Code focuses on Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention
18 USC §§ 5031 – 5042 – Juvenile Delinquency
Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Company, 443 U.S. 97 (1979)
This case established that the press cannot be stopped from publishing a juvenile’s name if the information was obtained through sources independent of the court because if the facts are gathered lawfully by the media, the first amendment right to free press takes precedence over the interest in protecting a juvenile’s anonymity.
McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971)
The Supreme Court determined that the 14th Amendment due process clause does not require jury trials in juvenile court because juries are not known tobe more accurate than judges during adjudication and could disrupt the information nature of the juvenile court.
In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970)
The Court held that the “reasonable doubt” standard must be applied to all delinquency cases, consistent with the principle that the juvenile court is designed to help and not punish juvenile offenders.
In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967)
The Court determined that in hearings that could result in commitment to an institution, youths have the right to notice and counsel, to question witnesses, and to protection against self-incrimination, based on the juvenile justice system’s primary principle to help rather than punish the juvenile offender.
Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541 (1966)
The Supreme Court held that a state’s Juvenile Court cannot waive jurisdiction over a juvenile criminal case unless the juvenile has a hearing on the issue and the judge provides a written statement of reasons for the waiver. The court insinuated that requiring anything less would challenge the constitutionality of the juvenile court system, and infringe on the juvenile’s right to due process.
Juvenile Justice: A Social, Historical, and Legal Perspective / Preston Elrod, R. Scott Ryder(2011) KF9779 .E44 2011 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Juvenile Justice: Theory and Practice / Cliff Roberson (2010) KF9779 .R628 2010 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Understanding Juvenile Law / Martin R. Gardner (2009) KF9780 .G37 2009 (Law Treatises, 5th floor and Reserve)
Juvenile Justice Administration in a Nutshell / Barry C. Feld (2009) KF9780 .F45 2009 (Reserve)
Trial Manual for Defense Attorneys in Juvenile Court / Randy Hertz, Martin Guggenheim, Anthony G. Amsterdam (2008) KF9794 .H47 2008 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Rethinking Juvenile Justice / Elizabeth S. Scott, Laurence Steinberg (2008) KF9779 .S36 2008 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Juvenile Justice / Laura L. Finley (2007) HV9104 .F53 2007 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Juvenile Law Violators, Human Rights, and the Development of New Juvenile Justice Systems / edited by Eric L. Jensen and Jørgen Jepsen (2006) HV9069 .J842 2006 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Juvenile Justice: A Reference Handbook / Donald J. Shoemaker, Timothy W. Wolfe (2005) HV9104 .S448 2005 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Handbook of Youth and Justice / edited by Susan O. White (2001) HV9069 .H312 2001 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
International Handbook on Juvenile Justice / edited Donald J. Shoemaker (1996) HV9069 .I665 1996 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Juvenile Law and its Processes: Cases and Materials / Francis B. McCarthy, James G. Carr (1989) KF9793 .M39 1989 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Juvenile Law Handbook / compiled & edited by Shirley Raissi Bysiewicz (1984) KFC3694.5 .B97 1984 (Law Treatises, 5th floor)
Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence? / sponsored with Flaschner Judicial Institute & Suffolk University Law School's Juvenile Justice Center & Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service (2008) KF9810 .L47 2008 (Law Treatises, 5th floor and Reserve)
Massachusetts Juvenile Delinquency and Child Welfare Law Sourcebook & Citator / Kantrowitz, Karp, Limon & Wolf (MCLE Family Law Practice Library Series) (2007) KFM2995.Z9 M37a (Reserve)
Juvenile Law / Roderick L. Ireland (Massachusetts Practice Series) (2006) KFM2480 .M3 2006 (Law Reading Room & Reserve)
Kids, Gangs, & Immigration: The Bermuda Triangle of Juvenile Defense / Juvenile Justice Center (2006) KFM2998.Z9 K527 2006 (reserve)
When Problems + Solutions = New Problems / Juvenile Justice Conference sponsored with the Juvenile Justice Center (2006) KFM2995.Z9 J88 2006 (Reserve)
Guardian Ad Litem Practice in Family Court / cosponsored with the Juvenile Justice Center and Massachusetts Association of Guardians ad Litem, Inc (2002) KFM2507.Z9 G83 2002 (Reserve)
CHINS, the Step-Child of the Juvenile Justice System / cosponsored with the Juvenile Justice Center (2000) KFM2995.Z9 C5556 2000 (Reserve)
Massachusetts Juvenile Court Bench Book – V. 1-3 / Jay Blitzman (2003) KFM2996 .M37 2003 (Reserve)
Juvenile Law Basis – V. 1-2 / Jay Blitzman (1994) KFM2995.Z9 J89 1994 (Reserve)
Massachusetts State Agencies & Advocacy Organization
Boston Bar Association
The Massachusetts Bar Association promotes legal education for both lawyers and the public. Use their website to find reports produced by the Juvenile Justice Task Force and other resources on the topic of juvenile justice.
Children’s Law Center of
The Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts is a private, non-profit resource and legal advocacy center that provides training and technical assistance to other professionals as well as representation for low-income children in Eastern MA. They provide detailed explanations of how to seal juvenile records and understand potential outcomes of the case.
Citizens for Juvenile Justice
Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ) is a non-profit organization that helps improve the Massachusetts juvenile justice system by making it more fair and effective. CfJJ conducts research, advocates and educates the public through forums and publications on important juvenile justice issues. CfJJ is also currently involved in a multi-year campaign which obligates any agency working within the juvenile justice system to produce statistical data (including race, ethnicity, gender, age and offense) about youth at all points in the system.
Department of Youth
The Department of Youth Services (DYS) is the juvenile justice agency of Massachusetts. Their mission is to protect the public and prevent crime by promoting positive change in the lives of youth committed to DYS custody.
Justice Advisory Committee
The Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (JJAC) is a diverse group of juvenile justice professionals and private citizens appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts in accordance with the Federal Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) which authorizes the formation of State Advisory Groups (SAG). The main purpose of the JJAC is to address juvenile justice issues such as delinquency prevention, alternatives to detention, holding youth accountable for their actions, ensuring that juveniles are held separately from adults who have been detained, and more.
This page is helpful for finding reports compiled by the Commonwealth which include statistics on the admission, commitment and detention of juvenile offenders.
The Youth Advocacy Department (YAD) provides legal representation to Boston’s neediest juveniles. YAD works to improve the legal and life outcomes for children who encounter the juvenile justice system by improving the skills and capacity of their advocates.
National Agencies & Advocacy Organizations
Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center
The Juvenile Justice Center acts as the primary voice for the ABA on juvenile justice and criminal law issues. They advocate for juvenile defense by distributing information such as reports, research and articles.
Center for Children's
Although focused on juvenile justice in Connecticut, there are some good resources on this page including a brief bank and a great list of web links.
The Center on Juvenile & Criminal
The Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice (CJCJ) acts as a Blog, Journal and Resource Center for the juvenile justice population. Their goal is to serve youth through the phases of the juvenile process and increase awareness of alternatives to incarceration.
Children’s Defense Fund
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a non-profit child advocacy organization that creates policies and programs that protect children from abuse and neglect, ensure their access to healthcare and education, and inform the public about the needs of children.
CDF also provides an extensive list of Advocate and Family Resources for Juvenile Justice
Detention Alternatives Initiative
The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) seeks to reform the juvenile justice system by focusing on alternatives to the detention component of the system. JDAI fights to reduce the number of children who are improperly detained and continues to demonstrate that states can safely reduce reliance on detention.
ABA Now provides the most up-to-date articles on topics related to juvenile justice including recent case law, delinquency prevention, and juvenile detention.
Foundation Research Network
The MacArthur Foundation focuses their research on how to improve the Nation’s juvenile justice system to ensure that it holds juvenile offenders accountable for their actions. They hope to reform the juvenile justice system so that it will better enhance public safety, deter crime and rehabilitate offenders.
National Center for Mental Health
Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention
Works with school districts and communities to develop programs designed to prevent youth violence.
National Center for Juvenile
The National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) is the research division of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and is the oldest resource for research on topics directly and indirectly related to juvenile justice.
National Council of Juvenile and Family
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) hopes to improve the effectiveness of family and juvenile courts by providing legal professionals and related agencies with knowledge on how to better the juvenile justice system.
Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)
The NCJRS is administered by the Office of Justice Programs and U.S. Department of Justice and is a great source of publications and statistics relating to juvenile justice topics such as child protection and health, corrections, delinquency prevention, gender/race/ethnicity and juvenile courts.
National Juvenile Defender Center
The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) aims to improve access to representation for children in the justice system and provide support for their advocates. The NJDC bolsters the capacity of juvenile defenders by providing them with a way to build partnerships, exchange information, and improve advocacy skills with other professionals.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
The mission of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, is to support state and community efforts to improve the juvenile justice system. The OJJDP provides national leadership and resources such as newsletters, surveys, publications and state contacts to respond to juvenile delinquency.
The W. Haywood Burns
The W. Haywood Burns Institute is a national non-profit organization that seeks to protect and improve the lives of youths of color by reducing their overrepresentation in the juvenile justice system.
Wrightslaw Page on
Wrightslaw can be used by lawyers and the public alike to learn more about advocating for children with disabilities, which is particularly prevalent and troubling issue within the juvenile justice system. This site can be used to gather resources, articles and publications on juvenile justice education and safe schools.
Youth Law Center
The Youth Law Center is a public interest law firm that advocates on behalf of children in foster care and juvenile justice systems. YLC’s legal team provides ample resources which educate the legal community and the public on how to keep children out of adult jails, reduce the use of incarceration and out-of-home care and seek to secure just treatment for children in both adult and juvenile systems.
To Learn Even More About…
Criminal Justice & Juvenile Justice References by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, administered by the Office of Justice Programs and the U.S. Department of Justice
Law’s Juvenile Justice Clinic
The Juvenile Justice Clinic at Georgetown Law in Washington DC compiled an abundant list of useful websites and resources on the topic of juvenile law.
Washlaw Legal Research
on the Web
Washlaw is a free service of Washburn University School of Law and is a great way to find other internet resources.