Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System


Arizona provides counsel to indigent youth through a county-based system that includes public defender offices and private appointed attorneys. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 8-221 describes the system by which counsel is provided to indigents, which varies based on the county in which county the court sits. In counties with public defender offices, the public defender may act as appointed counsel in delinquency or incorrigibility proceedings at the request of the court. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 8-221(H)(1); Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 11-584(A)(6). In other juvenile proceedings in those counties, the public defender may act as appointed counsel if the board of supervisors authorizes the appointment. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 8-221(H)(2); Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 11-584(A)(8). Indigent defense is funded by counties with assistance from the state. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 11-588.

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

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. Arizona’s juvenile court rules are called the Arizona Rules of Procedure for the Juvenile Court.

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 on or delineating that right.

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

Pursuant to Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 23, detained juveniles also have the right to access an attorney while in detention, if not released at intake.

Determination of Indigence

Arizona has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 8-221(B) states that “if a juvenile, parent or guardian is found to be indigent and entitled to counsel, the juvenile court shall appoint an attorney. . .” “Indigent means a person not financially able to retain counsel.” Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 10(B). “If the court finds that the juvenile or parent or guardian has sufficient financial resources to reimburse, at least in part, the costs of the services of an attorney appointed pursuant to this section, the court shall order the juvenile or the parent or guardian to pay to the appointed attorney or the county, through the clerk of the court, an amount that the parent or guardian is able to pay without incurring substantial hardship to the family.” Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 8-221(G). Failure to comply with such an order to pay is not grounds for a child’s attorney to withdraw. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 8-221(G). In addition, “If a juvenile is entitled to counsel and there appears to be a conflict of interest between a juvenile and the juvenile’s parent or guardian including a conflict of interest arising from payment of the fee for appointed counsel,” the court may appoint an attorney for the child in addition to the one “employed by the parent or guardian.” Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 8-221(E).

Waiver of Counsel

A juvenile may waive his or her right to counsel if the waiver is:

“If there is a conflict of interest between the juvenile and the parent, guardian or custodian the court shall impose such safeguards on the waiver of counsel as appear in the best interest of the juvenile.” Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 10(D).

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.  A juvenile cannot “be held in detention for more than 24 hours unless a petition alleging incorrigible or delinquent conduct or a criminal complaint has been filed.” Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 23(C). A detention hearing must occur within 24 hours of the filing of the petition. Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 23(C). Provisions relating to the detention of juveniles can be found in Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 8-221(A), 8-303, 8-305, and 15-913, and in Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 23.

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 Arizona, youth have a right to counsel in the following post-disposition proceedings:

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 Arizona:

Youth in Adult Court

Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Arizona has two ways that juveniles 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 Arizona. 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 May 2015.