Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System


Alaska provides counsel to indigent youth through a statewide Public Defender Agency, whose mandate includes juvenile delinquency cases. Alaska Stat. § 18.85.100(a).  The public defender agency is state funded. The public defender may form contracts with private attorneys to provide additional representation. Alaska Stat. § 18.85.130. Public defenders representing youth who have committed municipal offenses deemed “serious crimes” are paid by the municipality. Alaska Stat. § 18.85.155(a).

Alaska has no statutorily required or recommended training requirements or standards for attorneys representing youth in delinquency proceedings.

Alaska youth have a right to a trial by jury in adjudicatory hearings, if requested at least 20 days before trial. Alaska Sup. Ct. Delinquency R. 21(a).

Juvenile Court Rules

In addition to statutes and case law, juvenile court proceedings are governed by court rules. These are often promulgated at the state level, and may or may not be supplemented by local court rules. Alaska’s juvenile court rules are called the Delinquency Rules.

Right to Counsel

Beyond the right to counsel in juvenile court guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), states often have state constitution or statutory provisions further expanding upon or delineating that right.

In Alaska, youth in juvenile court have the right to counsel:

At the first hearing, the court must inform a child of his or her right to be represented by counsel at all subsequent stages of the proceedings. Alaska Sup. Ct. Delinquency R. 16(a).

Determination of Indigence

Alaska’s juvenile delinquency rule on right to counsel says the Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure regarding indigence apply to delinquency proceedings. Alaska Sup. Ct. Delinquency R. 16(b). “A defendant is eligible for court-appointed counsel if the court finds that the total financial resources available to the defendant are not sufficient to pay allowable household expenses and the likely cost of private representation through trial.” Alaska R. Crim. Pro. 39.1(b)(1).

In determining indigence, the judge considers factors such as income, property owned, debts, and dependents. Alaska Stat. § 18.85.120(b). A person is indigent if he or she “is unable to provide for payment without undue hardship.” Alaska Stat. § 18.85.100(b). Indigence is also defined as a person who lacks the resources to pay for legal services without depriving themselves or dependents of food, shelter, or clothing. Alaska Stat. § 18.85.170(4). The determination of indigence must be made as soon as practicable, but not later than 60 days after an action commences. Alaska R. Admin. 10(a).

“If the defendant is a minor . . . the court shall consider the resources of both the defendant and the defendant’s parents, unless the parents were victims of the alleged offense or the court finds other good cause to treat their resources as being unavailable to the defendant.” Alaska R. Crim. Pro. 39.1(c)(2). The court may order a parent to contribute an amount consistent with his or her financial resources to pay for the child’s attorney. Alaska Sup. Ct. Delinquency R. 16(b).

Waiver of Counsel

Alaska allows a minor to make a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of the right to counsel if a parent or guardian with whom the minor resides or resided before the filing of the petition concurs with the waiver. Alaska Stat. § 47.12.090(a), Alaska Sup. Ct. Delinquency R. 16(c). However, if the minor allegedly committed an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, waiver of counsel may not be accepted unless the court is satisfied that the minor has consulted with an attorney before the waiver of counsel. Id.

Detention Provisions

When and how the court may decide to detain a child or otherwise place restrictions on the child’s freedom is defined by statute and court rules. In Alaska, a detention hearing must occur within 48 hours of notice to the court of detention, unless the child is being held securely in correctional facilities that house adult prisoners, at which point the hearing must occur no more than 24 hours after custody begins. Alaska Stat. § 47.12.250(c). Provisions for the detention of youth are found in Alaska Stat. §§ 47.12.240 and 47.12.250, and in Alaska Sup. Ct. Delinquency R. 12 and 13.

The U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court case law are also sources of due process rights beyond local and state statutes and provisions.  NJDC’s Detention Page provides more information about detaining youth.

Post-Disposition Advocacy

The legal needs of children in the delinquency system rarely end at disposition, and states vary in the way they provide a right to representation on these post-disposition issues. In Alaska, youth have the right to appointed counsel at the Probation Revocation hearing. Alaska Sup. Ct. Delinquency R. 24. Youth are also entitled to counsel at hearings to extend disposition; however, they are not entitled to counsel at annual reviews of disposition or subsequent hearings.  Alaska Sup. Ct. Delinquency R. 25.

NJDC’s Post-Disposition Page has more information on this topic from a national perspective.

Ages of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

The age of a child who comes within the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile courts is defined by state law. In Alaska:

Youth in Adult Court

Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Alaska has two ways that youth can be prosecuted as adults:


NJDC conducts statewide assessments of access to counsel and the quality of juvenile defense representation in delinquency proceedings around the country. These assessments provide a state with baseline information about the nature and efficacy of its juvenile indigent defense structures, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the indigent juvenile defense system, and provide tailored recommendations that address each state’s distinctive characteristics to help decision-makers focus on key trouble spots and highlight best practices. The NJDC State Assessment Page provides more information about state assessments.

NJDC has not yet conducted an assessment of the juvenile indigent defense system in Alaska. If you would like to collaborate with NJDC to fundraise for, plan, or engage in an assessment in this state, please contact us.


Current through June 2017.