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. Ann. § 8-221 describes the system by which counsel is provided to indigent youth, which varies based on the county in which 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. Ann. § 8-221(H)(1); Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 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. Ann. § 8-221(H)(2); Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 11-584(A)(8). Indigent defense is funded by counties with assistance from the state. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 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(B)(6), detained youth 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, but the court “shall” appoint an attorney “if a juvenile, parent or guardian is found to be indigent and entitled to counsel . . .” Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-221(B).

Indigence is defined as “a person not financially able to retain counsel.” Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 10(B)(1). For a determination of indigence, the youth, parent, or guardian must submit a financial questionnaire to the court. Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 10(B)(2). “If the court finds that the juvenile or the parent or guardian of a juvenile 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. Ann. § 8-221(G). Failure to comply with such an order to pay is not grounds for a youth’s attorney to withdraw. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-221(G). In addition, if there is a conflict of interest between the youth and parent, including one arising from the cost of counsel, the court may appoint an attorney for the youth in addition to the attorney “employed by the parent or guardian.” Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-221(E).

Waiver of Counsel

A youth may waive their right to counsel if the waiver is:

However, if there is a conflict of interest between the young person and their parent, guardian, or custodian, the court can impose additional safeguards on waiver. Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 10(D).

Detention Provisions

When and how the court may decide to detain a youth or otherwise place restrictions on the youth’s freedom is defined by statute and court rules.  A youth cannot be “held in detention for more than twenty-four (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 also occur within 24 hours of the filing of the petition. Ariz. Juv. Ct. R. P. 23(C). Provisions relating to the detention of youth can be found in Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 8-221(A), 8-303, 8-305, 15-913, and 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 youth 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 young person 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 three 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.

The Arizona Assessment was completed in 2018.


Current through July 2018.