New Report Calls For Arizona Juvenile Court Changes

By Ariana Bustos
Published: Monday, October 1, 2018 - 6:30pm
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2018 - 11:09am
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It’s been over 50 years since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that originated in Arizona gave juveniles the same due-process under the law as adults. But juvenile justice in Arizona may still have unequal representation.

The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) released an assessment recently that examined Arizona’s access and quality of juvenile defense counsel.

Amanda Powell, the primary author of the report, says one of the key findings is the lack of free representation. “The promise is that their attorney will be free and that they will get the same quality representation as though they had money, and the truth is, the fines and fees are just crushing the life out of children and their families.”

Chris Phillis, an attorney from the Maricopa County Defender’s office, said these fees sometimes follow juvenile offenders until adulthood, who want their records sealed when they turn 18.

"They kind of end up in this Catch-22. They’re not getting in anymore criminal trouble, but they’re not able to destroy their juvenile records because they’re not able to pay their fines and fees,” Phillis said.

Phillis also said juveniles are able to waive the right to counsel before speaking with an attorney about their case.

Mary Ann Scali, the executive director of NJDC, said reforms in Arizona as they relate to fines and fees are leading to better outcomes.

“We believe that this report leads to improvements for young people across the state of Arizona.”

As part of the assessment, Scali said they were able to interview judges, attorneys and defendants.