Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System


Idaho provides counsel to indigent youth through a county-based system which includes public defenders—either through a county office, a joint office of more than one county, or contracting with an existing office—and contract attorneys. Idaho Code Ann. § 19-859.

Counties are empowered to establish specialized juvenile public defender offices. Idaho Code Ann. § 19-860.

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

Idaho’s indigent defense system is mostly county funded, and counsel appointed for juveniles are to be reimbursed by county. Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(4).

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, but may also be passed at the local court level instead of or in addition to statewide rules. Idaho’s Juvenile Rules govern procedures in district and magistrate courts in all actions under the Juvenile Corrections Act (governing delinquency) and the Child Protective Act (governing abuse and neglect).

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.

A child shall be notified of his or her right to counsel “[a]s early as possible in the proceedings, and in any event before the hearing of the petition on the merits….” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(4).

Youth have the same right to be represented by counsel as adults, including representation at probation revocation, recommitment, appeal and in any post-adjudication or review proceeding, unless the court considers counsel at such proceeding to be a frivolous one. Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(1)(a), (2).

Determination of Indigence

Idaho has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings, and is governed by the adult criminal procedure law. Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(7). Indigence need not be determined prior to an accused person’s first court appearance. Idaho Code Ann. § 19-854(1). Indigence is determined by the presiding court based on factors such as income, property, debts, and dependents. Idaho Code Ann. § 19-854(3). Persons who fall into certain categories, such as those who receive public assistance, are presumed indigent until a contrary determination is made. Idaho Code Ann. § 19-854(2).

“When it appears to the court that the juvenile or his parents or guardian desire counsel but are financially unable to pay for such legal services, the court shall appoint counsel to represent the juvenile and his parents or guardian….” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(4). If the court finds there is a conflict of interest between the child and his or her parents or guardian, the court “shall” appoint separate counsel for the juvenile, regardless of the parents’ or guardian’s ability to pay, unless the child waives counsel and the court “determines that the best interest of the juvenile does not require the appointment of counsel.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(4).

The person liable for the support of a juvenile “may be required by the court to reimburse the county for all or a portion of the cost of those legal services” provided to the juvenile by counsel, unless the court finds the adult to be indigent and that the requirement would impose a “manifest hardship.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(7).

Waiver of Counsel

“Any waiver of the right to counsel by a juvenile…shall be made in writing, on the record and upon a finding by the court that: (a) The juvenile has been informed of the right to counsel and the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation; and (b) The waiver is intelligently made after consideration of the totality of the circumstances including, but not limited to: (i) The age, maturity, intelligence, education, competency and comprehension of the juvenile; (ii) The presence of the juvenile’s parents or guardian; (iii) The seriousness of the offense; (iv) The collateral consequences of adjudication of the offense; and (v) Whether the interests of the juvenile and his parents or guardian conflict.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(5).

Juveniles “shall not” waive their right to counsel in these circumstances:

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 Idaho, if a juvenile is not released to a parent or responsible adult, a detention hearing “shall” be held within 24 hours of the preliminary decision to detain following detention, excluding weekends and holidays. Idaho Juv. R. 7(c).

Provisions for the detention of juveniles are found in Idaho Code Ann. §§ 20-514, 20-516, 20-517, and 20-518, and in Idaho Juv. R. 7-9 and 11.

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. Idaho law states that children have the right to counsel at all post-disposition proceedings, unless the court determines the proceeding to be frivolous. Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(2).

In Idaho, youth have an explicit 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 Idaho:

Youth in Adult Court

Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Idaho has three 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 Idaho. 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.