Juvenile Delinquency

What is Juvenile Delinquency?

An act committed by someone under the age of seventeen that would have been a crime if committed by an adult.

What are Some Frequent Delinquencies?

  • Arson - starting a fire or causing an explosion which damages property. This includes abandoned or vacant property.
  • Assault - hitting or striking a person or saying you will do so.
  • Burglary - breaking into and entering a house or building with the purpose of committing a crime.
  • Driving While Intoxicated - operating any motor vehicle, including a motorcycle or motorized bike, under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Drug and Alcohol Offenses - possession of, use of, and sale of illegal drugs or alcoholic beverages.
  • False Identification - altering a driver's license or other form of identification in such a way that it contains false information or pretending that someone else's identification is yours.
  • Rape - sex with another person of any age without that person's consent. Sex with a person less than 14 years of age is rape even if the person has consented to having sex.
  • Receiving Stolen Property - accepting property that you know is stolen.
  • Robbery - taking a purse, money or other property from a person by force or threat of injury.
  • Sexual Abuse - forcing another person to have sexual contact with you.
  • Stealing - taking something without the owner's permission. This includes shoplifting. Acting with, helping or assisting another person to steal even if you do not keep the stolen goods are still considered the crime of stealing.
  • Tampering - driving or riding in a car or vehicle without the owner's permission; "joyriding."
  • Traffic Laws - if you have a driver's license, you are expected to know and obey all traffic laws.
  • Trespassing - going on property without the owner's permission or going on property where there is a fence or a "Keep Out" or "No Trespassing" sign.
  • Vandalism - damaging another person's property, such as breaking windows, spray painting and letting the air out of tires.
  • Weapons Violations - carrying guns, razors, knives or metal knuckles on your person or having such items readily available in your car, such as under your car seat, in the glove box or similar storage in your car. Bringing a gun to school is a serious weapons violation.


What Should You Do if Taken Into Custody?

If a law enforcement officer takes you to the police station or the family court and intends to keep you there for a period of time, you are "being taken into custody." If this happens to you, give your name, address and age and your parents' names and phone numbers.


What are Your Rights if You Are Stopped by a Police Officer?

If you are under 17 years of age and you break the law, you are taken into custody and turned over to the family court. You do not have to say anything until you talk to a lawyer, other than identifying yourself by name, address and age.

The law enforcement officers will take your photograph and fingerprints if you have committed a serious crime. If you are taken into custody for a minor crime, then your fingerprints may be taken only if a judge orders it.

You may be held in detention. Detention is the act of keeping a person confined or imprisoned. You must be told of the reason for your detention, your right to a detention hearing(usually within three days) and your rights during detention.


How Long Can You Be Kept at a Detention Center?

You can be detained up to 24 hours without a court order. You can be detained longer by court order. Your parents must be notified as soon as practicable.


Who Decides How Your Case Will be Handled?

The juvenile officer assigned to your case will decide how to handle your case. A family court judge hears the evidence against you.


How are Cases Handled?

Cases are handled by having a meeting at family court with you and your parents or by filing a petition in family court. If you are held more than 24 hours, a petition, a paper which states the charges against you, must be filed.


When is a Petition Usually Filed?

A petition is usually filed when you are charged with a serious crime, when you have been held more than 24 hours or when you have been in trouble before.


Who Decides if You Can be Tried as an Adult?

A family court judge will decide whether you will be tried as an adult after reading the charges brought against you, after looking at your record, and after holding a hearing. The judge will consider the seriousness of the charges, whether your community needs to be protected from you, whether the crime involved force or violence, whether you hurt another person, whether you have a record of breaking the law and your age.

If you are tried as an adult and found guilty, there are several things that may happen to you. You may be sent immediately to an adult prison. You may spend some time at a juvenile detention center and then be sent later to an adult prison. You may be placed on probation and given a second chance to stay out of trouble. If you are convicted of first degree murder and you were 16 years old at the time you committed the murder, you could receive the death penalty. If you are tried as an adult and found guilty of a crime, you will always be tried as an adult for any crime.


What Happens if You are Not Tried as an Adult?

A hearing is held in family court. You have the right to a lawyer paid by your parents. If your parents cannot pay a lawyer, the judge will appoint a lawyer for you.

You have a right to plead "not guilty" and have a trial in front of the judge in family court. If you say you are guilty or you are found guilty after the trial, the judge will decide what to do with you.

The hearing and trial in the family court will be open to the public if you are accused of committing a serious crime.


What Might the Court Decide to Do With You?

You might become a ward of the court. That means the court will supervise you. You might be returned home in the custody of your parents, with court ordered visits with the juvenile officer. You might be sent to a foster home, a group home or other institution. You might be ordered to perform community service or pay restitution to the victim. If you cause damage to property or injure a person, your parents may also have to pay up to $4,000 for damages and injuries.


What Helps the Court Decide Placement for You?

  • Your attitude
  • The number of times you have been in trouble
  • The seriousness of your offense
  • Your school record
  • What help your family will give
  • The kind of friends you have


How Long Can the Court Keep You in Custody?

The court can keep you in custody until you are 21 years of age.


How Does Trouble With the Law Affect You?

  • You can lose your driver's license or have it suspended.
  • Your school can find out that you have been in trouble with the family court and you could possibly be suspended from school for up to one year.
  • Your family court record can be seen by the family court, adult prosecutors and adult judges. If the family court finds you to be a juvenile delinquent because you committed a serious crime, then your family court record will be a public record.
  • Your juvenile record can be used to show that you should not be believed as a witness in other court proceedings.
  • Your juvenile record can follow you forever.
  • Your juvenile record makes it harder to get a job.
  • Your juvenile record makes it harder to get into military service.
  • You risk losing the respect and trust of other people.
  • Although you may ask the court to seal your family court record at age 17, the court does not have to seal it.


For Legal Advice, See Your Lawyer

If you need help finding a lawyer, call The Missouri Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 573-636-3635.

In Kansas City, call 
In St. Louis, call 
In Springfield, call 


Family Justice Center (Map)
625 East 26th Street
Kansas City, Missouri
Phone: (816) 474-3606
FAX: (816)
24 hour: (816) 435-4700

Honorable Kevin D. Harrell

Lori L Stipp

Theresa Byrd