Juvenile Law

Cases heard  


Trials of juveniles under adult law  

Disposition of cases  

Modification of judgments and appeal  

The juvenile court is a court of special jurisdiction dealing with children under the age of seventeen in criminal cases, and under the age of eighteen in all other matters. It is a division of the circuit court. It is designed to provide protection, treatment and rehabilitation. Children are not treated as criminals, but as persons needing care, education, protection and guidance (see Chapter 211, RSMo).

Cases Heard by the Juvenile Court Include:  

A. Children who are runaways, out of parental control or habitually truant from school. This is referred to as a status offense.

B. Children who are neglected by their parents, who have been sexually, emotionally and/or physically abused by their parents, custodian or guardian.

C. Delinquent children, those whose conduct would be considered criminal if they were adults.

D. Adoptions and termination of parental rights.

E. Cases involving parents who refuse to provide or consent to necessary medical treatment for their children.


A. The filing of a "petition" institutes the court procedure dealing with a juvenile. Only the juvenile officer may file the petition. The petition must state facts sufficient to allow the juvenile court to take jurisdiction of the juvenile.

B. A hearing date is set. A summons may be issued directing the juvenile to attend the hearing and requiring the child's custodian to be present.

C. When a juvenile is taken into judicial custody he is released at once to a suitable person unless:

1. The court has ordered the juvenile to be in detention;

2. Temporary detention has been ordered; or

3. The juvenile was taken into protective custody and the court determines the conditions requiring protective custody continue to exist.

D. Unless otherwise authorized by the court, a juvenile shall not be held in detention for a period of more than twenty-four hours.

E. If the court orders that the juvenile be held in custody, the judge will designate the facility to which the juvenile shall be taken.

1. No provisions are made for bail in juvenile court.

2. If a juvenile is held in a detention facility, the detention hearing must be held within three days unless the court for good cause continues the hearing.

F. A two-stage hearing procedure is followed to:

1. Determine if the juvenile is a proper subject to be dealt with by the juvenile court; and

2. If so, to make the proper disposition.

G. Rule 117.02 provides that the juvenile court "may in its discretion . . . admit to hearings persons with a direct interest in a given case or in the work of the juvenile court."

H. Rule 122.02 provides that "records of the juvenile court as well as all information obtained and social records prepared in the discharge of official duty for the court shall be kept confidential and shall be open to inspection only by order of the judge of the juvenile court. . . ."

1. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the press may publish juveniles' names in certain limited circumstances. For guidelines see Oklahoma Publishing Co. v. District Court, 430 U.S. 308 (1977), and Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co., 443 U.S. 97 (1979).

Trials of Juveniles Under Adult Criminal Law.  

A. Juveniles between the ages of 12 and 17 years old who have committed an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult may be tried under the adult criminal law (sometimes referred to as the general law). At any age, youths who are alleged to have committed a serious offense, such as murder, sale of drugs, robbery, rape or assault, or who are repeat offenders may be certified as an adult and transferred to the adult criminal system. (Section 211.071, RSMo 2004.)

1. A hearing is held with all safeguards of notice, counsel and other rights. The only issue is whether the juvenile is a proper subject to be dealt with under the Juvenile Code. Factors considered by the court include:

a. Whether the alleged offense involved viciousness, force or violence.

b. Whether the alleged offense is part of a pattern of offenses indicating that the juvenile is beyond rehabilitation under the Juvenile Code.

c. The juvenile's prior record.

d. The programs and facilities available to the court to treat or rehabilitate the juvenile.

2. The court does not determine the guilt or innocence of the juvenile in determining whether to waive jurisdiction.

B. If the court finds the juvenile not a proper subject to be dealt with under the Juvenile Code, it orders the petition dismissed. A copy of the petition and order of dismissal are sent to the prosecuting attorney, who may then charge the juvenile under the general law. The juvenile is then prosecuted as an adult, using procedures outlined in Handbook Chapter III.

C. If the court does not permit the juvenile to be prosecuted under the general law, it goes ahead with its hearing procedures under the Juvenile Code.

Disposition of Cases.  

A. The juvenile court has numerous alternatives in dealing with children. It may:

1. Return the child to the home.

2. Place the child in the home of a relative.

3. Order the child committed to a public or private agency authorized to care for children, such as the Missouri Division of Youth Services.

4. Commit the child to the custody of the juvenile officer for placement in a halfway house or other facility under the court's jurisdiction.

5. Order the child to perform some community service, undergo psychiatric treatment, make restitution or order other appropriate measures.

B. All commitments are for an indeterminate period of time, but may not continue past the juvenile's 21st birthday. If the child is committed to the Department of Mental Health, he cannot be detained at one of its facilities past his 18th birthday without another court hearing and order to continue the commitment.

Modification of Judgments and Appeal.  

A. A judgment of the juvenile court when the court retains jurisdiction may be modified or terminated at any time upon the court's own motion. Also, the juvenile or parent may at any time petition the court in writing to modify or terminate the court's jurisdiction.

B. An appeal is allowed from any final judgment. Notice of appeal shall be filed within thirty days after entry of final judgment and does not stay the execution of the judgment unless the court orders a stay.