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).

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). 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:

  1. The [youth] has been informed of the right to counsel and the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation; and
  2. The waiver is intelligently made after consideration of the totality of the circumstances including, but not limited to:
  3. The age, maturity, intelligence, education, competency and comprehension of the [youth];
  4. The presence of the [youth]’s parents or guardian;
  1. The collateral consequences of adjudication of the offense; and
  2. 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:

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, a peace officer or private citizen may detain a youth without court order if there is:

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.

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 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.

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 2018.