Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System


Minnesota provides counsel to indigent youth through full time public defender offices in each of the state’s judicial districts. The public defender offices are coordinated and funded by the State Board of Public Defense, which is a judicial branch agency. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 611.215(a). Though the Board generally consists of seven members, the Chief Public Defender in each office is appointed by a nine-member ad-hoc State Board of Public Defense. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 611.215(c). The board is responsible for approving and recommending a budget to the legislature, for distributing funding “to the state and district public defenders and to the public defense corporations” and for establishing standards, policies, and procedures for state and district public defenders. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 611.215(2).

The Board of Public Defense Appellate Office provides services to indigent defendants “who appeal their criminal cases to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Supreme Court; or who pursue post-conviction proceedings in the District Courts throughout the state, and to defendants in supervised release/parole revocation proceedings.”

Minnesota has no statutorily required or recommended training requirements or standards for attorneys representing youth in delinquency proceedings, but statute does require the state public defender to establish both standards for the provision of all public defense services and to provide and oversee the training of all attorneys representing indigent clients in criminal or juvenile proceedings. Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 611.215(2)(c); 611.25(3).

Minnesota youth have a right to a trial by jury in extended juvenile jurisdiction prosecutions, whereby certain older youth who have committed certain offenses are given a juvenile disposition and a stayed adult sentence. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 260B.130.

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. Minnesota’s juvenile court rules are the Minnesota Rules of Juvenile Delinquency 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 Minnesota, youth in juvenile court have the right to effective assistance of counsel at all juvenile court proceedings when the child is charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony offense, or when the outcome may be an out-of-home placement. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 260B.163(4), Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P.  3.02(1), 3.02(2), 3.02(3)). The right to counsel “attaches no later than when the child first appears in court.” Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.01. A child does not have a right to counsel in juvenile petty offenses or juvenile traffic offenses unless the child may be subject to out-of-home placement or falls under another situation where counsel is required. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.02(5)(A). A child is specifically entitled to counsel at the following proceedings:


If a youth cannot afford counsel and does not retain private counsel, the court shall appoint counsel. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.02. If the youth is charged with a felony or gross misdemeanor and waives their right to counsel, the court must appoint standby counsel to be available to assist the youth. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.02(1). If the youth is charged with a misdemeanor and waives their right to counsel, the court may appoint standby counsel to be available to assist the youth. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.02(2). No out-of-home placement may be made where the youth was not initially represented by counsel or standby counsel. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.02(3).  If a youth waives their right to counsel, the court must advise the youth of their right to counsel at the beginning of each hearing where the youth is not represented by counsel. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.05.

Determination of Indigence

Minnesota has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings but will appoint counsel for any child who is unrepresented in hearings in which the child has a right to counsel. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 260B.163(4)(b), Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P.  3.06. The court is responsible for determining whether a child is financially unable to obtain counsel, meaning the child cannot procure adequate representation without creating a substantial hardship for the child or the child’s family. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P.3.06. Counsel will be appointed even if the child and their family are able to pay a part of the cost. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.06. If the child cannot afford competent representation, and the parent is able but refrains from doing so, the court shall appoint counsel at public expense. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.06. The court may order the parent to pay for the child’s counsel. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P.3.06.

Waiver of Counsel

In Minnesota a youth may waive their right to counsel if:

Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.04(1).

“If the court accepts the [youth]’s waiver, it shall state on the record the findings and conclusions that form the basis for its decision and shall appoint standby counsel.” Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.04(3). A child is not permitted to waive counsel in competency proceedings. Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 3.04(2).

If a youth waives their right to counsel in proceedings involving felonies and gross misdemeanors or when out-of-home placement could result, the court must “appoint standby counsel to be available to assist and consult with the child at all stages of the proceedings.” Minn. Stat. Ann. § 260B.163, Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P.3.02. The cost of standby counsel “shall be paid for by the Office of the State Court Administrator with state funds or, if the prosecutor requests the appointment, by the governmental unit conducting the prosecution. In no event may the court order the Board of Public Defense to pay the cost of standby or advisory counsel.” Minn. Stat. Ann. § 260B.163(4)(c).

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 Minnesota, a detention hearing must be held within 36 hours of the youth being detained, excluding weekends and holidays, if the youth is held in a juvenile facility. If the youth is held in an adult facility, the detention hearing must occur within 24 hours, excluding weekends and holidays. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 260B.178(1); Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 5.07(1). If the child is detained in an adult facility in a standard metropolitan statistical area, the detention hearing must commence within 6 hours, including weekends and holidays, “unless a charging document has been filed and the judge or referee determines… that the child shall remain in detention.” Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 5.07(1).

Provisions for the detention of youth are found in Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 260B.175 260B.176, 260B.178, 260B.181,260B.185, and 260B.188,  and Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 5.03, 5.04, 5.05, 5.07, 5.08, and 13.02.

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. Minnesota statutes list three post-disposition proceedings at which youth have a right to counsel.

In Minnesota, 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 youth who comes within the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile courts is defined by state law. In Minnesota:

Youth in Adult Court

Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Minnesota has three ways that youths 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 Minnesota. 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 July 2018.