Maine Juvenile Court is the system that handles most cases involving juveniles who commit offenses that would otherwise be considered crimes if the conduct had been committed by adults. Juveniles are persons under the age of 18 years old.
Juvenile offenders are treated under the law differently than adult offenders. The focus in Juvenile Court is to provide young offenders with care, guidance, appropriate treatment and services, as well as consequences for their actions. See 15 M.R.S. § 3002.
Important Information for Parents and Guardians
Parents and guardians:
- Must be notified that their child has been arrested without undue delay;
- Have a right to know where their child is being held;
- May be present during any questioning; and
- Are required to attend court hearings.
It is very important for parents to help their child:
- Comply with any Juvenile Conditions of Release (JV-006) that the court may set;
- Follow through with all of the requirements of an Informal Adjustment; and/or
- Fulfill all of the terms of a disposition ordered by the court after adjudication.
A Juvenile Community Corrections Officer (JCCO) may be involved in a juvenile case from the investigative stage through the disposition. In some cases, the JCCO may arrange an informal adjustment of the case instead of having the case proceed in Juvenile Court.
See What Happens in a Juvenile Court Case for more information.
Cases Involving Juveniles Not Heard in Juvenile Court
Certain motor vehicle and hunting and fishing offenses
If a juvenile is charged with certain motor vehicle, snowmobiling, ATV, hunting, or fishing crimes, the case will be heard in regular District Court with adult cases. Examples of these kinds of cases include speeding, fishing without a license, hunting after sundown, or texting while driving. See 15 M.R.S. § 3103(1)(E-F).
Being tried as an adult
If a juvenile is charged with a serious offense—murder, or a Class A, B, or C crime if committed by an adult, the State may file a motion to have the juvenile tried as an adult.
After the motion is filed, the judge will hold a bind-over hearing to determine if the juvenile should be tried as an adult. At the bind over hearing, the court considers testimony as to the seriousness of the offense, various evaluations, and whether the current juvenile system can provide necessary services to the juvenile. If a juvenile is bound over, all remaining court matters are held in adult criminal court and the juvenile is subject to adult penalties. 15 M.R.S. § 3101(4).
Right to Appeal a Bind Over Decision
If the juvenile disagrees with the court’s bind over decision, the juvenile may file an appeal. See Appeals for more information.
Terms Used in Juvenile Cases
See 15 M.R.S. § 3103.
Definitions of other legal terms can be found on the Judicial Branch Glossary page.
- Adjudicated: A juvenile is considered to having been “adjudicated” when the court decides that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile has committed a juvenile offense. A juvenile may also be “adjudicated” when they enter a plea of guilty to the juvenile offense that was charged.
- Adjudicatory hearing: When a judge hears evidence from the state and the juvenile and decides if the juvenile has committed the juvenile offense charged. It is similar to a trial.
- Arrest: When a law enforcement officer detains a juvenile based on probable cause that a juvenile has committed a juvenile offense.
- Bind-over hearing: A court hearing to determine if the State can go forward with the case against the juvenile as if the juvenile were an adult. The prosecuting attorney decides if this is an issue that the court should hear.
- Deferred disposition: A possible resolution to a case where the parties agree to the juvenile temporarily admitting to a juvenile offense. Once the juvenile admits to the juvenile offense, the court date is set for a later time to give the juvenile time to complete the services and activities that the juvenile and the prosecutor agree to. The court needs to approve this agreement. The services and activities may include counseling, attending school or a job, living with a specific person, and/or community service. If the juvenile does everything that is required, with the approval of the prosecuting attorney, the court may dismiss the charges or allow the juvenile to enter an admission of guilt to a lesser charge.
- Detention/Detained: When a juvenile is placed in a facility and not able to leave.
- Disposition: Consequences ordered by the court for a juvenile who has been adjudicated.
- Dispositional Hearing: A hearing after a juvenile has been adjudicated where evidence is given to the court to help the court to decide what the consequences are for the adjudicated juvenile.
- Emancipated: When a juvenile is no longer under the legal control of the juvenile’s parents, guardians, or legal custodians.
- Guardian ad Litem: A person appointed by the court to inform the court about, and to represent, the needs and best interest of a juvenile.
- Informal adjustment: A voluntary agreement between a juvenile and a JCCO. The juvenile agrees to certain items and, if done, the JCCO recommends to the prosecutor that a petition charging the juvenile with a juvenile offense not be filed with the court. The prosecutor then makes the decision as to if the petition will be filed.
- Interim care: Temporary physical control of a juvenile by a police officer or other person authorized by 15 M.R.S. §3501.
- Juvenile Case Records: All records that make up a juvenile case file. Access to these records depends on the type of crime as well as who is trying to see the records. A juvenile case record does not include administrative or operational records of the Judicial Branch.
- Juvenile Court: Judges of the Maine District Court when presiding over juvenile proceedings.
- Juvenile Community Corrections Officer or JCCO: Staff of the Maine Department of Corrections who, among other things, conduct investigations and serve as juvenile probation officers in juvenile cases. JCCOs are involved in many parts of a juvenile case, including contact before the juvenile’s first court appearance and the dispositional phase of the case. See 34-A M.R.S. § 5602 and 15 M.R.S. § 3203-A.
- Lawyer of the day: A licensed Maine lawyer, appointed by the court, who is present in court and available to provide free legal advice to all juveniles at the first court appearance.
- Prosecuting attorney: A licensed Maine lawyer who represents the State of Maine in a juvenile case. The prosecutor is either an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) or an Assistant Attorney General (AAG).
- Social study: A study, required by the court, that looks at a juvenile’s social situation including housing, family, school, and/or employment. The court may consider recommendations in the social study in its disposition.
- Summons: A document given to the juvenile by a law enforcement officer stating the alleged crime that the juvenile is accused of committing as well as the date and location of the initial court appearance.
- Suspended disposition: After a juvenile has been adjudicated of a juvenile crime, the court may delay the disposition/consequences while a juvenile participates in services determined by the court. For example, if a juvenile is ordered to pay money as a result of being adjudicated, the court may allow the juvenile to not pay the money right away as long as the juvenile does a certain numbeer of community service hours. Unlike a deferred disposition, with a suspended disposition, what the juvenile has been adjudicated of will not change after the activities are completed.
Betsy Boardman, Esq.
Child Protective and Juvenile Process Specialist
Telephone: (207) 822-3215
Administrative Office of the Courts
P.O. Box 4820
Portland, ME 04112-4820