Chapter 8: Juvenile Court

Chapter 8: Juvenile Court

In Oregon, except in certain very limited circumstances, the juvenile court has exclusive jurisdiction over persons under the age of 18. The Oregon Juvenile Code refers to them as either delinquent “youths” or dependent “children.”

Delinquency Jurisdiction: Applies to youths who have committed an act which is a violation, or if done by an adult would constitute a violation of a law or ordinance of the United States or a state, county or city.

In certain circumstances, the juvenile court may waive (or transfer) its exclusive jurisdiction over delinquent youth to adult court after hearing in which the state proves that the youth is not amenable to treatment in the juvenile system and that retaining juvenile jurisdiction will serve neither the interests of the youth or society. Additionally, most juvenile motor vehicle, boating, and game violations are routinely waived into adult court.

Youths charged with committing certain serious felonies after April 1, 1995, are automatically tried and sentenced in adult court.


Dependency Jurisdiction: Applies to children (1) who are beyond the control of their parents, guardian or another person having custody over them, (2) whose behavior, conditions or circumstances are such as to endanger their welfare or the welfare of others, (3) who are dependent for care and support on a public or private child care agency and need the services of the court in planning for their best interests, (4) who have run away from home, (5) who have applied to be emancipated, or (6) whose parent or custodian has either abandoned them, failed to provide for their care or education, has subjected them to cruelty, depravity or unexplained physical injury, or who has failed to provide the care, guidance or protection necessary for their physical, mental or emotional well-being.


Juvenile Procedure -Preliminary Hearing: Whenever youths and children are taken into protective custody and placed outside of their home in either detention or shelter care, they are entitled to a judicial “preliminary hearing.” Delinquent youths are entitled to a judicial preliminary hearing within 36 hours, (excluding weekends and holidays) of being placed in detention. Dependent children and their parents or guardians are entitled to a hearing within 24 hours from the time children are placed into shelter care.

At this hearing, the court notifies the parties of the allegations and sets the matter for a jurisdictional hearing. A “petition” stating the allegations is filed with the court. Counsel is appointed to represent delinquent youths. Counsel is appointed for dependent children and their parents or guardians. The court also determines where youths and children will reside pending the resolution of the matter that brought them before the court.

Delinquent youths may be held in detention for up to 56 days prior to adjudication when they (1) are alleged to have committed any offense which involves infliction of physical injury to another person, (2) are alleged to have committed any felony crime, (3) are on probation or have been conditionally released and there is probable cause to believe that they have violated either their probation or release conditions, (4) have a history of failing to appear, or (5) are alleged to be in unlawful possession of a firearm, and (1) that there is no less restrictive placement which would ensure their future appearance in court or (2) that their behavior endangers the community. Youths held in detention are entitled to a placement review hearing every 10 days.

The court may order that dependent children be immediately returned to their parents or custodians. The court may also order the children continued in shelter care upon making written findings that continued removal would be in the best interests of the children.


Juvenile Procedure — Jurisdictional Hearing: Juvenile court jurisdictional hearings are much like a trial. Parties call witnesses and present evidence. The Oregon Rules of Evidence apply.

When a court determines that a child is under the jurisdiction of the court, this means that the child is under the authority or control of the court.

The court may take jurisdiction over delinquent youths upon a finding that the state has proven allegations of delinquent conduct The standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. The juvenile court may take jurisdiction over dependent children upon a finding that allegations of child neglect or unsafe conditions have been proven by a preponderance of evidence.


Juvenile Procedure — Dispositional Hearing: A dispositional hearing will follow the jurisdictional hearing when the court finds a youth or child is within its jurisdiction. Youths and children may be made wards of the court, placed on probation with conditions including community service and treatment and be ordered to pay restitution to their victims. Under certain circumstances they may be ordered into the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority for residential placement or placement in a state training school

Dependent children may or may not be immediately returned to their parents. Parents may be ordered to complete certain requirements necessary to ensure the safety of the child as a pre-condition for the child’s return to his or her parent’s custody. If the parents fail to remedy the conditions which allowed the court to take jurisdiction, their parental rights may be terminated.


Access to Records: Juvenile records are generally confidential and are withheld from public inspection. They are, however, open to all parties and their attorneys.

The name, date of birth, and basis for jurisdiction over a juvenile is not confidential. Neither are the date, time, and place of any juvenile court proceeding, nor the crime charged in the case of a delinquent youth.

Juvenile court orders regarding emancipated children and orders regarding the disposition of adjudicated delinquent youths are not confidential.


Access to Hearings: All juvenile hearings are open unless the court makes findings that public access would over crowd the courtroom or otherwise interfere with or obstruct the proceedings.

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