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FAQ

This section and the information provided herein is intended to provide general information only and is not intended to be used for legal advice. Use of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship and shall not be construed as legal advice. The Missouri Juvenile Justice Association is not responsible for the use or misuse of information set forth herein. While we try to maintain accuracy, the user must realize that rules, statutes and cases cause the law to be constantly changing and evolving. The Missouri Juvenile Justice Association provides this information as a courtesy. Users are warned to obtain the services of an attorney for any and all questions or issues, including those questions or issues addressed in this material. Note: For more information on specific statutes http://www.moga.mo.gov

General

Dilinquency/Status Offense

Child Abuse/Neglect

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What is the difference between the juvenile courts and other courts?
The Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court, also known in some circuits as the Family Court, has exclusive jurisdiction to hear certain kinds of cases including abuse/neglect, status offenses, delinquency, adoptions and commitment of persons under eighteen years of age to the guardianship of the Department of Social Services.

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What is the purpose of Missouri’s Juvenile Code?
The purpose of Missouri’s Juvenile Code is to facilitate the care, protection and discipline of children who come within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.

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Has Missouri adopted a public policy concerning children?
Yes. The child welfare policy of Missouri is what is in the best interests of the child.

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Who is an adult under Missouri law?
For purposes of the juvenile code, an adult is a person seventeen years of age or older while a child is someone under seventeen years of age. For other purposes, the age at which a person becomes an adult can be different. For example, a person becomes an adult for driving purposes as early as fifteen and one-half years of age and as late as eighteen, depending upon the type of driver’s license granted. For purposes of buying a long gun, a person must be eighteen, while a person must be twenty-one to purchase a handgun. A person must be twenty-one years of age to consume or possess alcoholic beverages. Thus, a person reaches adulthood at different ages for different purposes.

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May the jurisdiction of the juvenile court ever be extended past eighteen years of age?
Yes. Under certain circumstances, jurisdiction of the juvenile court may be extended to twenty-one years of age.

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What is a delinquent act?
A delinquent act is an act which, if that same act were committed by an adult, would constitute a crime. The juvenile court has jurisdiction over any person who is under seventeen at the time the delinquent act is committed except that the juvenile court does not have jurisdiction over non-felony traffic offenses committed once the juvenile becomes fifteen and one-half years of age. In addition, the juvenile court does not have exclusive jurisdiction over a juvenile who is alleged to have violated either a municipal curfew ordinance or a juvenile who is alleged to have violated a state or municipal ordinance or regulation prohibiting possession or use of any tobacco product. Thus, both the adult and the juvenile courts have concurrent jurisdiction over juveniles who violate curfew or tobacco ordinances or laws.

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What is a status offense?
A status offense is a violation of the juvenile code which, if that same act were committed by an adult, would not be a violation of the law. There are only five status offenses recognized by Missouri law. They are: (1) truancy, (2) incorrigible child, (3) runaway child, (4) behavior or associations injurious to the welfare of the child and (5) the child is charged with an offense not classified as criminal or applicable only to children.

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What happens when a juvenile is taken into custody?
The juvenile will be released to the juvenile’s custodian or another suitable person unless substantial reasons exist for detaining the juvenile. Generally, appropriate reasons for detention in reference to delinquent acts may include, but are not limited to:
1. Alleged acts resulting in serious bodily injury or property damage/loss which constitutes a felony.
2. Acts of misconduct that placed any person or the general public at risk of serious harm.
3. Acts of misconduct involving a weapon or sexual offense.
4. Circumstances that indicate the juvenile is a significant flight risk and in need of protection.

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Can a juvenile be held in a jail?
A juvenile may only be detained in a detention facility as specified by the court and may not be detained in any jail or other adult detention facility.

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How long can a juvenile be kept in a detention center?
The Juvenile Officer or designee has the authority to authorize the detention of a juvenile for a period of less than twenty-four hours. The Court must authorize continued detention for a period of more than twenty-four hours.

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Can a juvenile be handcuffed?
Juveniles may be handcuffed as needed to ensure the safety of all parties, including the juvenile. Juveniles under the age of thirteen should not be handcuffed as a matter of general practice unless the juvenile is combative r a threat to themselves.

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Can a juvenile be fingerprinted and photographed?
Any juvenile taken into custody for offenses that would constitute a felony if committed by an adult shall be fingerprinted and photographed. This is a statutory requirement and consent by the Juvenile Division is not required.
For misdemeanors, a juvenile’s fingerprints and photographs may be obtained only by a juvenile court order from the judge.

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Can a juvenile be questioned by the police or other law enforcement?
Yes. However, before an in-custody interview or interrogation may begin, a juvenile must be advised by the Juvenile Officer or a designee trained by the Juvenile Officer of each their rights. The admissibility of any juvenile statement is determined by circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

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Can a juvenile waive or give up their rights?
Yes. A juvenile may waive the right to have a parent, guardian, or custodian present, but the parent must be present and advised of the juvenile’s right to an attorney and to remain silent, and the juvenile must be given the opportunity to consult with the parent, guardian, or custodian as to the waiver of the aforesaid rights.

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What rights does a juvenile in custody have?
1. The right to remain silent;
2. The right to an attorney and if the juvenile is unable to afford an attorney, that one will be provided;
3. Any statement made to the Juvenile Officer or Juvenile Division personnel may be used in later Juvenile Division proceedings;
4. That if the juvenile indicates in any manner at any time in the interview, they do not wish to be questioned further, the questioning will stop;
Any statement to law enforcement or persons other than the Juvenile Officer or Juvenile Division personnel may be used against he juvenile in the event the juvenile is prosecuted as an adult.

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May a juvenile be prosecuted as an adult?
Yes. In order to be prosecuted as an adult, the juvenile must generally be at least twelve years of age and must be charged with a felony. This is generally called a certification proceeding and it may be requested by the juvenile officer, the child’s custodian or the court may decide to conduct such a hearing on its own. A certification hearing is, however, required if the juvenile is charged with certain very serious felony offenses. Even children under twelve years of age may be certified to stand trial as adults if the charges involve one of the serious felony offenses set forth in the statute. The serious offenses are first and second degree murder, first degree assault, forcible rape, forcible sodomy, first degree robbery, distribution of drugs or any juvenile who has committed two or more prior unrelated felonies.

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How does the court decide whether to certify a juvenile to stand trial as an adult for a crime?
The juvenile court considers all relevant evidence including, but not limited to, the seriousness of the offense, the facts of the offense, the type of offense, whether the juvenile has a repetitive pattern of committing crimes, the prior record and history of the juvenile, the sophistication and maturity of the juvenile, the age of the juvenile, the available programs and facilities for treatment of the juvenile in the juvenile system, whether the child can benefit from treatment in the juvenile system and whether or not there is racial disparity in the certification process.

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What is dual jurisdiction?
When a juvenile has been certified by the Juvenile Court to stand trial in the adult system and the juvenile has been convicted in the adult system, the adult criminal court judge can invoke dual jurisdiction of both the criminal and the juvenile code by imposing a juvenile disposition or sentence and simultaneously imposing an adult sentence, the execution of which is suspended pursuant to the provisions of the law.

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What is an informal adjustment?
An informal adjustment usually consists of a conference at which the juvenile is warned not to have any further violations. Informal adjustments are used for minor offenses instead of taking the juvenile to court.

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What is the adjudicatory hearing?
The trial of the charges or allegations set forth in the petition is bifurcated, which means that the hearing is held in two parts. The first part is called the adjudicatory hearing and the purpose is to determine whether the charges or allegations of a petition are true. The second part, called the dispositional hearing, only occurs if the charges or allegations have been proven and the court assumes jurisdiction. Once the court assumes jurisdiction over the juvenile, the court must decide what type of disposition to order. This is the purpose of the dispositional hearing, at which the court decides what to do with respect to the treatment or rehabilitation of the juvenile.

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The Petition was established at the adjudication hearing and the case is now proceeding to the dispositional phase. Does the court have certain options concerning disposition?
Yes. Section 211.181.1 sets forth most of the options for dispositional orders for the court. Section 211.181 sets forth the dispositional options for children who have been adjudicated as victims of abuse or neglect. Section 211.181.2 sets forth the dispositional options for children who have been adjudicated as status offenders. Section 211.181.3 sets forth dispositional options for children who have been adjudicated delinquent.

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As part of the court’s order, my child has been ordered to pay restitution. May the court also order a parent to pay that restitution as well?
Yes, but only if the court finds that the parent has failed to exercise reasonable parental discipline or authority to prevent the damage or loss and the child has committed certain actions as set forth in Section 211.185 which relate to stealing, damaging or destroying property or inflicting personal injury. There is a procedure for a restitution hearing to determine the correct amount and the amount the parents may be asked to pay shall not exceed $4,000.00 under this provision in Chapter 211.

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Who can have a court appointed lawyer in juvenile court?
Any party is entitled to be represented by an attorney in all proceedings. Appointment of a free attorney is governed by certain statutes and Supreme Court Rules. Prior to the filing of a petition, only a child has the right to appointed counsel. The child must be indigent and request appointment. After a petition has been filed, the court shall appoint counsel for a child whenever necessary to assure a full and fair hearing. The requirement for appointment of counsel for a child applies even if the child’s parents are not indigent. After a petition has been filed, the custodians may have counsel appointed for them but only if they are indigent and they have requested appointment of counsel and the court finds that a full and fair hearing requires appointment of counsel.

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Does Missouri have a juvenile sex offender registry?
Yes. The rules establishing the juvenile sex offender registry is set forth in Section 211.425, RSMo. It applies to any person adjudicated a delinquent by a juvenile court for committing or attempting to commit a sex related offense which, if committed by an adult, would be considered a felony offense under Chapter 566, RSMo. It also applies to adjudications in other states or in federal court for offenses which would be equal to the ones described under Missouri law. Some juveniles who have been required to register on the juvenile sex offender registry may also have to register as an adult on the adult sex offender registry when the juvenile reaches twenty-one years of age. See Section 589.400, RSMo.

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Does Missouri recognize specific types of abuse?
Yes. In Missouri there are three types of abuse. They are: (1) physical abuse, (2) sexual abuse and (3) emotional abuse. Physical abuse requires that there be actual physical injury, no matter how slight. Sexual and emotional abuse do not require physical injury.

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What is the role of the juvenile court when a child has been abused or neglected?
The role of the juvenile court is to intervene for the protection of the child. Punishment of the perpetrator of the abuse or neglect is the responsibility of the criminal court, not the juvenile court.

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How does Missouri define neglect?
Neglect is a failure to provide, by those responsible for the care, custody and control of the child, proper or necessary support, education as required by law, nutrition or medical, surgical or any other care necessary for the child’s well being.

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If a child has been abused or neglected, who may take protective custody of my child?
Under Missouri law, protective custody may only be taken by a police officer, law enforcement official, physician or juvenile officer.

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What is a mandated reporter?
Section 210.115 lists those professionals and job titles who are known as “mandated reporters.” A mandated reporter is generally someone with some responsibility for the care of children. If a mandated reporter has “reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect or observes the child being subjected to conditions or circumstances which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect,” then the mandated reporter must cause a report to be made.

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May other persons report abuse or neglect?
Yes. Any other person may report suspected abuse or neglect if that person has “reasonable cause to suspect” that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect or observe the child being subjected to conditions or circumstances which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect.

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What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
A Guardian Ad Litem is usually a lawyer and is appointed to advocate for the best interests of the persons whom the Guardian Ad Litem is appointed to represent. In abuse/neglect cases, a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed to represent the child victim in any case which results in a judicial proceeding. A Guardian Ad Litem is also required to represent a parent who is a minor or who is mentally ill or otherwise incompetent in child abuse proceedings, juvenile court cases or custody matters.

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Does a Guardian Ad Litem have to have any special training?
Yes. Missouri law requires that a Guardian Ad Litem shall have completed a training program in permanency planning. The Supreme Court has also adopted standards for Guardians Ad Litem which requires specific amounts of initial and follow-up training.

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What is a court appointed special advocate?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained volunteer citizen who is appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children in court. Non-attorney volunteer advocates are prohibited from giving legal advice or representation.

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If my spouse abused our child and I did not know about or participate in the offense will the child be removed from me?
No. Children shall be promptly returned to the care and custody of a non-offending parent entitled to custody if only one parent is the subject of the investigation and the non-offending parent does not have a history of criminal behavior, drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or child neglect, domestic violence or stalking within the past five years and the offending parent is removed from the home or the parents live separately and the child has been removed from the home of the offending parent and provided the non-offending parent requests custody and agrees to cooperate with the orders of the court. When the parents maintain joint domicile or comply with court ordered visitation there is a rebuttable presumption that the non-offending parent has not committed any violation or engaged in any conduct that would constitute child abuse or neglect and in order to rebut the presumption there must be a finding of actual harm or endangerment to the child if the child would be placed in the custody of the non-offending parent.

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If my child is taken into custody because of allegations against me of abuse or neglect, do I have the right to a hearing?
Yes. If a child is taken into custody because of allegations of abuse or neglect, the court must hold a protective custody hearing within three days excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays. The full trial on the allegations must be held within sixty days after the child has been taken into custody. The court must make a decision concerning what treatment to order for the child within ninety days after the child has been taken into custody. The law permits modest extensions on these time limits.

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Is there any prohibition on returning a child to a sex offender?
Yes. Generally courts in any type of custody proceeding, including juvenile cases, shall not place a child with a parent or in a home in which any person residing in the home has either been found guilty of or pled guilty to certain sex offenses or other crimes against Missouri law or similar crimes in other jurisdictions.

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The juvenile court order conflicts with my previous custody order. Is this allowed?
Yes. An order or judgment entered by the juvenile court under the authority of either Chapters 210 or 211 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, so long as the order remains in effect, takes precedence over custody orders rendered by other courts in other types of cases.

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My child has been removed from me. Is the juvenile court allowed to enter a child support order?
Yes. When the court has assumed jurisdiction of a child under Section 211.031, the court may enter child support orders.

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Do grandparents have any rights in juvenile court?
Yes. A grandparent shall have a right to intervene in any proceeding in juvenile court in which custody of the grandchild is at issue unless the juvenile court decides that intervention by the grandparents is not in the best interests of the child.

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May religion be considered in placement of my child?
Yes. In placing a child in the custody of an individual or agency, the court shall whenever practicable, select a person or agency governed by persons of the same religious faith as that of the parents of the child. If the parents have a difference of religious faith, then the placement must be the religious faith of the child or if that is not ascertainable, then the faith of either of the parents.

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I do not agree with the decision of the juvenile court. Am I allowed to appeal?
Yes. An appeal is allowed to the child, a parent or, in certain circumstances, to the juvenile officer. Other may be allowed to appeal in limited circumstances.

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Who can file for a termination of parental rights in Missouri?
Termination of parental rights petitions filed under Chapter 211 must be filed by either the juvenile officer or the Children’s Division. A private person can only file a termination of parental rights petition in connection with and as part of a Chapter 453 adoption. Another statute permits a private person to seek termination of parental rights when a large child support arrearage has accrued, although that statute has been rarely used.

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What type of termination proceedings are there?
Termination of parental rights under Chapter 211 can be divided into two broad categories: (1) termination of parental rights by consent and (2) contested termination of parental rights. All terminations must be in the best interests of the child. Contested terminations involve terminations where the parents will not consent and the parents are accused of abandonment, abuse, neglect, failing to rectify an abusive or neglectful situation, because of the commission of certain sex offenses against the child or another child in the family, because the child was conceived by an act of forcible rape or because the parents are unfit.

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Is a Guardian Ad Litem required for a termination of parental rights case?
Yes. In all cases for termination of parental rights, a Guardian Ad Litem must be appointed if not previously appointed.

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The case involving my child involves allegations of abuse or neglect. Does the public have the right to attend?
Yes. Abuse/neglect cases are open to the public. In certain circumstances, the court may close the proceeding to the public, but only after the court hears arguments and makes findings. Pleadings and orders are open to the public in juvenile cases. Under certain circumstances, portions thereof may be redacted. Adoptions are still closed to the public.

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Does the public have a right to attend court proceedings and/or view records in juvenile cases other than abuse or neglect?
Records of juvenile court proceedings in other types of cases are not open to the public except by order of the court unless the juvenile has been adjudicated guilty of a Class A felony, capital murder, first degree murder or second degree murder. In delinquency cases, the juvenile officer is authorized to discuss matters concerning the child, the allegations or the case with persons who have a need to know such as the victim, witnesses, school or law enforcement officials or prosecuting attorneys or any person or agency having care or custody of the child.

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