Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System


Oregon provides counsel to indigent youth through a statewide Office of Public Defender Services (OPDS) that administers the delivery of and payment for indigent defense services. OPDS, governed by the Public Defense Services Commission, provides representation in juvenile delinquency cases by setting qualification standards and awarding contracts to private attorneys who may be individuals or members of law firms, nonprofit defender offices, and other groups. Or. Rev. Stat Ann. § 419C.206; Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 151.010. OPDS provides some appellate representation in adult cases, but does not handle appeals from juvenile delinquency cases.

The Public Defense Services Commission has issued qualification standards for court appointed counsel listing the minimum training and practice requirements that attorneys must have before representing young clients in juvenile delinquency cases. OPDS has also issued Best Practices for Oregon Public Defense Providers and a statement on the role of counsel for children and youth.

Court Rules

In addition to statutes and case law, juvenile court proceedings are governed by court rules. Oregon does not have specific juvenile court rules at the statewide level, but local court rules may apply to juvenile proceedings in a given jurisdiction.

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 Oregon, youth in juvenile court have the right to counsel in delinquency cases in which the youth would be entitled to appointed counsel if the youth were an adult charged with the same offense. Or. Rev. Stat. § 419C.200(1)(a).  “The right to counsel shall attach prior to the youth’s entering into a formal accountability agreement.” Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.245(1).

The youth and their parents or guardians must be informed of the youth’s right to counsel, including appointed counsel if indigent, in writing. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.245(1). The first time the parents or guardian appear in court, the judge shall inform the parents verbally and in writing that they are obligated to pay for the youth’s attorney. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.020(1)(a).

The accused youth and the state are the parties to the adjudicatory hearing. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.285(1). At the dispositional stage, the parents or guardian of the youth are also parties. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.285(1)(a). The rights of the parties include “the right to appear with counsel and to have counsel appointed if otherwise provided by law….” Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.285(2)(b).

A child is specifically entitled to counsel at the following proceedings:

Determination of Indigence

Oregon has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.200(1)(b). Appointment of counsel by the court requires a determination that the “youth or the youth’s parents or guardians are without sufficient financial means to employ suitable counsel…” as defined by the Public Defender Services Commission. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.200(1)(b).

Parents or guardians are obligated “to pay for compensation and reasonable expenses for counsel for the youth….” Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.020(1)(a). Therefore, the court may order the parent or guardian to pay all or part of the administrative costs of the indigence determination and all or part of the costs of counsel and related services. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.203(1). In addition, the court may order a nonindigent youth to pay some or all of the costs related to the provision of the appointed counsel. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.203(1).

A youth or parent requesting court-appointed counsel must complete a detailed financial statement on which the indigence determination will be based. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 151.485(2). Indigence is defined as being “financially unable to retain adequate counsel without substantial hardship in providing basic economic necessities” for oneself or one’s dependents, under standards established by the Public Defense Services Commission. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 151.485(1).

In determining whether a youth should pay some of the costs, “the court shall also consider the reformative effect of having the youth pay. The court may order that a portion of any moneys earned by the youth in juvenile work projects be used to pay costs [related to appointed counsel].” Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419C.203(4).

Waiver of Counsel

Oregon does not have a specific juvenile statute or rule addressing a youth’s waiver of counsel, but case law allows waiver in specified circumstances. “The court had an obligation to advise child of his right to have counsel present and, if he chose to waive that right, to make a record that clearly indicates that child’s decision is the product of an intelligent and understanding choice.” State ex rel Juvenile Dep’t Linn Cty. v. Anzaldua, 820 P.2d 869, 871 (Or. Ct. App. 1991). The court must not only inform the child of the consequences of waiving counsel but it must also notify the child of the benefits of having counsel and the responsibility of waiving their right. State ex rel. Juvenile Dep’t of Marion Cty. v. Afanasiev, 674 P.2d 1199, 1201 (Or. Ct. App. 1984). See State v. Verna, 498 P.2d 793 (Or. Ct. App. 1972) (holding that the court must determine that a youth understands “the nature of the charge, the elements of the offense, the punishments which may be exacted” and that “it would be good practice to inform him of some of the pitfalls of defending himself, the possible advantage that attorney would provide, and the responsibility defendant incurs by undertaking his own defense”).

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 Oregon, a detention hearing must occur within 36 hours of the child being detained, excluding weekends and judicial holidays, except on order of the court. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann.  § 419C.139. Provisions for the detention of youth are found in Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 419C.130, 419C.133, 419C.136, 419C.139, 419C.142, 419C.145, 419C.150, 419C.153, and 419C.456.

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

In Oregon, 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 Oregon:

Youth in Adult Court

Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Oregon has two ways that young people 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 Oregon. 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.