Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System

HIHawaii provides counsel to indigent youth through a statewide public defender office governed by an appointed council. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 802-8, 802-9. The public defender represents juveniles charged with delinquent acts and status offenses, though in case of conflict, or in the interest of justice, the juvenile may be represented by appointed counsel. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 802-1; 571-87. Hawaii’s indigent defense system is state-funded.

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

Court Rules

In addition to statutes and case law, juvenile and family court proceedings are governed by court rules. These are often promulgated at the state level, but may also be passed at the local court level instead of or in addition to statewide rules. Hawaii’s delinquency proceedings are governed by the Hawaii Family Court 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 on or delineating that right.

In Hawaii, youth in juvenile court have the right to counsel

Determination of Indigence

Hawaii has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the Office of the Public Defender makes the initial determination of indigence, based on an investigation and an affidavit or declaration of inability to pay that is signed by the person requesting legal counsel. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 802-4. Numerous factors are considered. The guidelines for eligibility are here. Public defender services will be provided to people determined indigent, subject to review by the court.  A person waives the right to counsel by refusing to furnish any information pertinent to the determination of indigence.

Waiver of Counsel

Hawaii does not have a specific juvenile statute or rule addressing a juvenile’s waiver of counsel. Juvenile case law indicates that a waiver must be voluntarily, intelligently/knowingly based on the totality of the circumstances. The juvenile does not have to consult with counsel prior to waiving his or her right, as the family court is able to apply totality of circumstances analysis, which it should review “with great care.” In re Doe, 77 Haw. 46, 49-50 (Haw. 1994).

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 Hawaii, “No child shall be held in a detention facility for juveniles or shelter longer than twenty-four hours, excluding weekends and holidays, unless a petition or motion for revocation of probation, or motion for revocation of protective supervision has been filed, or unless the judge orders otherwise after a court hearing.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 571-32(d).

Provisions for the detention of juveniles are found in Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 571-11, 571-31, 571-31.1, 571-31.2, and 571-32, and Hawaii Fam. Ct. R. 130 through 136, and 155.

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. Hawaii statutes list one post-disposition proceeding at which youth have a right to counsel.

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 or family courts is defined by state law. In Hawaii:

Youth in Adult Court

Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Hawaii 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 Hawaii. 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 January 2014.