Juvenile Offenses in Pennsylvania — What to Expect
In Pennsylvania, most juvenile offenses fall into one of two categories: delinquency or summary offenses. Delinquency involves acts that would be considered crimes if committed by an adult — if you are charged with delinquency, you will be required to go through juvenile court proceedings to resolve the matter. A summary offense is a crime in the adult criminal code that has been committed by a juvenile. Summary offenses are considered less serious than other types of crimes.
If police officers have probable cause to believe that you are either engaged in illegal activity or have committed an offense, you can be detained or taken into custody. The probable cause may stem from information from witnesses, leading officers to obtain a warrant for your detention. Police may also detain you based on evidence they personally observe.
With probable cause, police may either question you on the scene, or may take you to a precinct for questioning. They can also arrange to release you to the custody of a parent or guardian. If the offense with which you are charged is a misdemeanor or felony, law enforcement officers may obtain fingerprints or take photos for your permanent record. In limited circumstances, they can also seek a DNA sample.
Police officers do not have to release you to the custody of your parents. They can place you in a juvenile detention center, a child welfare approved group home, or in any other environment approved by the court. Police may only put you in a secure detention facility, though if one of three conditions exists:
- You have no parent or guardian to whom you can be released
- There is a reasonable concern that you will leave the jurisdiction before your hearing is scheduled
- You need to be confined for your own safety
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