Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System


Maine provides counsel to indigent youth through a locally-based process. The court appoints private attorneys who have submitted their names to the District Court clerk to represent indigent youth. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15  § 3306; tit. 4 § 1802(1), (3). The indigent defense system is 100% state-funded.

The Maine Commission on Indigent Defense Legal Services was developed by statute and is responsible for promulgating standards for the representation of the indigent in Maine courts. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 4 §§ 1801, 1804(2). The Commission is also responsible for submitting an annual report that includes an evaluation of contracts and services provided to indigent defendants. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 4 § 1804(3)(H).  The Commission has adopted Juvenile Practice Standards. To be eligible to represent youth in delinquency cases, an attorney must meet the Eligibility Requirements.

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. Maine’s delinquency proceedings are governed by the Maine Rules of Criminal Procedure.

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 Maine, youth in youth court have the right to “counsel at every stage of the proceedings.” Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15 § 3306(1)(A). The court must advise youth of their right to counsel at the first court appearance and at every subsequent appearance. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann.  tit. 15§ 3306(1)(A). If counsel is requested and the youth and their legal guardian are found to be indigent, the court shall appoint counsel. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15 § 3306(1)(B). The court may appoint counsel even when a youth does not request it if the court deems legal representation necessary to protect the interests of the youth. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15 § 3306(1)(C).

Determination of Indigence

Maine has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings.

In determining whether a defendant is indigent the court considers the defendant’s income, credit standing, assets, living expenses, dependents, outstanding obligations, and the cost of retaining competent counsel. Me. R. Crim. P. 44(b). If the individual is an un-emancipated minor, the court will also consider the financial resources of their parents. Me. R. Crim. P. 44(b).

Waiver of Counsel

Maine does not have a specific juvenile statute, rule, or case law addressing a youth’s waiver of counsel, however if a youth is informed of their right to counsel and knowingly fails to request counsel, the court may find that the youth waived their right to counsel. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15 § 3306 cmt.

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. In Maine, youth must have a detention hearing within 48 hours of being detained, excluding weekends and holidays. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15 § 3203-A(5) If a youth is detained in an adult facility, because there was no reasonable alternative, the youth must have a detention hearing within 24 hours of being detained, excluding weekends and holidays. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15 § 3203-A(5), (7)(B-5).

Provisions for the detention of youth are found in Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 15 §§ 3201, 3202, 3203-A, 3205, 3206, and 3306-A.

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

In Maine, youth have a right to counsel in the following post-disposition proceeding:

NJDC’s Post-Disposition Page has more information on this topic from a national perspective.

Ages of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

The age of a youth who comes within the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile courts is defined by state law. In Maine:

Youth in Adult Court

Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Maine has two 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 Maine Assessment was completed in 2003.

Current through August 2018.