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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Rights of Minors Under Virginia Law

Rights of Minors Under Virginia Law


Just because someone is under 18 does not mean that they do not have any rights. In many cases a juvenile and an adult will have the same rights, but not always. In Virginia, juveniles – meaning people under the age of 18 – are often diverted to juvenile court which operates differently than adult criminal court. If you or a loved one is under 18 and is charged with a crime, you should contact a knowledgeable juvenile offenses attorney as soon as possible.

Juvenile Justice System in Virginia

The difference between the rights of adults and juveniles in Virginia involves the differences between the adult criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system. If a juvenile is charged with a crime serious enough to be charged in the adult criminal justice system, then they will have the rights and protections accorded to everyone else in the adult system. In Virginia, the juvenile justice system includes the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts, detention facilities, law enforcement, juvenile correctional facilities, and programs for juvenile offenders.

Due Process Rights of Juveniles

Due process includes the rights to be treated fairly by the government and to make sure that there are procedures in place that do not allow someone to get put in jail or penalized unfairly in another way. Juveniles in the juvenile justice system have some of the same rights as adults. They have the right to know what the charges are against them, they have the right to an attorney, they have a right against self-incrimination and can refuse to testify, and they also have a right to cross-examine witnesses and confront their accusers. The biggest difference between the juvenile justice system and the adult criminal justice system is that in the adult criminal justice system, defendants have a right to a jury trial and a right to a speedy and public trial. The juvenile justice system does not allow for jury trials or public trials because the juvenile justice system is interested in protecting the confidentiality of minors.

Guardian Ad Litems

Juveniles may be appointed a guardian ad litem if they are involved in certain kinds of proceedings such as abuse and neglect cases or custody cases. A guardian ad litem is different from an attorney because instead of representing the minor themselves, the guardian ad litem decides what they believe is in the best interest of the child and advocates for that position. Minors may also be appointed a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer who also provides information to the court about the child and his or her wellbeing.

Let Us Help You Today

If your child or another minor is charged with a juvenile offense or other kind of crime in the Northern Virginia area, you should contact a skilled juvenile offenses attorney as soon as possible. Our experienced juvenile offenses attorneys at Simms Showers, LLP, in Leesburg, Virginia can help defend your child or loved one against the charges.



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