“The idea that a kid can be in front of a judge and could be locked up with no lawyer there to defend him – I think most people are shocked by that notion,” said Timothy Curry, the National Juvenile Defender Center’s managing attorney. This quote is from a recent article, For Juveniles, the Elusive Right to Legal Counsel, by Gary Gately for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.
This reality that children appear in juvenile court without an attorney is routine throughout Indiana. In many counties, children always appear at the first hearing (a detention hearing or initial hearing) without an attorney. At that hearing, the child is advised of the right to counsel and may be removed from the community and detained without the assistance of an attorney. If the child chooses to waive the right to counsel — perhaps without fulling understanding what an attorney can do — the child will handle the entirety of the case alone, against the full resources of the assigned prosecutor. There are dozens of children at the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) who did not have the assistance of counsel, according to DOC records. But, geographic disparity exists. In other counties, no child ever appears in court without an attorney.
We continue to wait for action by the Indiana Supreme Court on the proposed early appointment of counsel rule, which would mandate that a child meet with an attorney prior to the first appearance in juvenile court. For more information on the early appointment of counsel rule, go here.