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.
By statute, Idaho’s state public defense commission is responsible for providing rules to establish training and continuing legal education for defending attorneys to “promote competency” in juvenile delinquency hearings. Idaho Code Ann. § 19-850(a). Idaho does not provide any further specifications or recommendations.
Idaho’s indigent defense system is mostly county funded, and counsel appointed for youth are to receive reasonable compensation from the county. Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(4). The county then has the right to hold the parents or guardian responsible for monetary reimbursement for payment of their child’s counsel unless the court finds them to be indigent. Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(4), (7).
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). A select set of Idaho Criminal Rules still apply to youth, “but only to the extent that the criminal rule does not conflict with [the] juvenile rules.” Idaho Juv. R., r. 21.
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 youth shall be notified of their 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). If the youth is detained, notice of the right to counsel “shall be given simultaneously with the notice of detention hearing and at the outset of a detention hearing.” Idaho Juv. R., r. 9(d).
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 “frivolous.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(1)(a), (2).
Determination of Indigence
Idaho has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings. Determination of youth indigence for counsel is governed by the adult criminal procedure law and Idaho Court Rules. Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(7); Idaho Juv. Ct. R., r. 9. 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).
If the court finds the youth is financially unable to pay for legal services, the court shall appoint counsel, “unless representation is competently and intelligently waived.” Idaho Juv. R., r. 9(a). In the event a youth is financially unable to pay for counsel, notice of the right to be represented by counsel at a public expense must be “given at the earliest possible time.” Idaho Juv. R., r. 9(d).
If the court determines that the youth or their parents or guardian want counsel but cannot afford it, the court will appoint counsel to represent the youth and their parents or guardian. Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(4); Idaho Juv. R., r. 9(b). If the court finds there is a conflict of interest between the youth and their parents or guardian, the court “shall” appoint separate counsel for the youth, 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 [youth] does not require the appointment of counsel.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(4); Idaho Juv. R., r. 9(b).
The person liable for the support of a youth “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 [youth] by counsel, unless the court finds the adult to be indigent and that the requirement would impose a “manifest hardship” beyond a current inability to pay. Idaho Code Ann. §§ 20-514(7), 19-854(7).
Waiver of Counsel
A youth may “competently and intelligently” waive their right to counsel. Idaho Juv. R., r. 9(a).
“Any waiver of the right to counsel by a [youth] . . . shall be made in writing, on the record and upon a finding by the court that:
- The [youth] has been informed of the right to counsel and the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation; and
- The waiver is intelligently made after consideration of the totality of the circumstances including, but not limited to:
- The age, maturity, intelligence, education, competency and comprehension of the [youth];
- The presence of the [youth]’s parents or guardian;
- The seriousness of the offense;
- The collateral consequences of adjudication of the offense; and
- Whether the interests of the [youth] and [their] parents or guardian conflict.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(5).
Youth “shall not” waive their right to counsel in these circumstances:
- “If the [youth] is under the age of fourteen (14) years.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(6)(a);
- “In sentencing proceedings in which it has been recommended that the [youth] be committed to the legal custody of the department of [youth] corrections.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(6)(b);
- “In proceedings in which the [youth] is being adjudicated for commission of a crime of a sexual nature.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(6)(c);
- “In proceedings in which the [youth] is being adjudicated for commission of a felony.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(6)(d);
- “In hearings upon a motion to waive jurisdiction under the [youth] corrections act pursuant to [§] 20-508.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(6)(e);
- “In hearings upon a motion to examine the [youth] to determine if he is competent to proceed pursuant to [§] 20-519A.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(6)(f); or
- “In recommitment proceedings.” Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(6)(g).
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, a peace officer or private citizen may detain a youth without court order if there is:
- reasonable cause to believe the youth committed a misdemeanor or felony;
- a violation of “any local, state or federal law or municipal ordinance” in their presence; or
- reasonable cause to believe the youth committed a status offense. Idaho Code Ann. 20-516(1).
If a youth 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., r. 7(c).
Provisions for the detention of youth are found in Idaho Code Ann. §§ 20-514, 20-516, 20-517, 20-518, and in Idaho Juv. R., r. 7-9, 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.
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:
- Probation revocation or recommitment. Idaho Code Ann. 20-514(2)(a).
- Idaho Code Ann. § 20-514(2)(b).
- Any post-adjudication or review proceeding, unless the court considers the proceeding to be frivolous. Idaho Code Ann. 20-514(2)(c).
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:
- No statute specifies the youngest age at which a youth can be adjudicated delinquent.
- Juvenile court has jurisdiction over offenses alleged to have been committed prior to a child’s 18thbirthday; after age 18, the child is charged in adult court. Idaho Code Ann.§ 20-502(10), (13).
- Juvenile court “shall” retain jurisdiction over youth until age 21, provided that the offense alleged to have been committed occurred before the child turned 18. Idaho Code Ann. § 20-507.
Youth in Adult Court
Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Idaho has three ways that youth can be prosecuted as adults:
- Adult Court Jurisdiction: any youth 14 or older who is alleged to have committed any of the crimes enumerated in § 20-509 is charged, arrested, and prosecuted as an adult. Idaho Code Ann. 20-509(1).
- Discretionary Transfer: Juvenile Court may waive its jurisdiction upon its own motion, that of youth, or that of prosecution, after a hearing, where any youth, including those under 14, is alleged to have committed any of the serious crimes enumerated § 20-509; or for any youth 14 or older who is alleged to have committed an act which would be a crime if committed by an adult. Idaho Code Ann. 20-508(1)-(3).
- Once an adult, always an adult. Idaho Code Ann. 20-509(3).
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.