In Connecticut, juveniles are persons under the age of 18. The same criminal statutes apply to juveniles as adults, but in most cases, juveniles are subject to different procedures and consequences than adults. Generally, juveniles found liable of violating the law are not considered convicted but are adjudicated delinquent. Juvenile delinquency matters emphasize Connecticut’s policy of rehabilitating juveniles, when possible, rather than punishing minors.
If the State brings criminal charges against a person under the age of 18, in most cases the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters has exclusive original jurisdiction. However, in some cases, a juvenile matter can be transferred to the adult criminal court. Juveniles possess some but not all of the rights guaranteed to adult criminal defendants. Juveniles are guaranteed the assistance of counsel in all critical stages of their proceedings and also have the right to court (but not jury) trials. Due to the potentially serious nature of juvenile delinquency, juveniles, and their parents should consult an attorney as early as possible.
Child Protection and Parental Rights
Parents have the right to parent their minor children, but the State also recognizes the importance of protecting children from harm and neglect. The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) is required to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. When DCF determines reasonable cause supports a claim that a person caused abuse or neglect, the case is considered substantiated. The person accused of abuse or neglect may request a substantiation hearing to challenge the agency’s decision.
Before parental rights can be restricted or taken away, Constitutional due process affords the parents or guardians rights throughout the proceeding. For example, parents, guardians, and the child have the right to counsel. In some cases, grandparents and other family members may join in the action. Parents have the right to deny and contest the allegations, which must be proven in court through a trial.