The Juvenile Defender Unit (JDU) strives to provide quality and effective legal representation and to professionally and personally attend to the needs of each young person to prevent recidivism, to help them develop competencies to become productive members of society and to avert them from entering the criminal justice system as adults.
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Don’t worry. We contact you. The Juvenile Defender Unit (JDU) receives a copy of every Juvenile Written Allegation approved by the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. A juvenile defense attorney is automatically assigned to the case and a confidential office interview is scheduled in our welcoming conference room or if the juvenile is detained, the interview takes place with the juvenile in custody. The same attorney stays with the client throughout the life of the case, including the receipt of additional or new charges. The client is however always free to hire private legal counsel at any time.
No. The Juvenile Defender Unit (JDU) staff handles appeals of summary offense convictions from a Magisterial District Court for all juveniles, ages 10 to 17. Thus, if you are unhappy with your result in DJ Court, please contact us to file an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas for a re-hearing for you, which must be filed within 30 days of conviction. Thus, please don’t delay in contacting us.
Don’t worry. You automatically qualify for an attorney. For criminal charges directly filed in adult Criminal Court against a juvenile, ages 15 to 17 at time of the offense, please come directly to our office or if in custody, your application will be taken by our staff. You will be assigned two attorneys: one specializing in juvenile defense and one focusing on defense in the criminal system.
The Juvenile Defender Unit's (JDU’s) professional team comprises experienced full-time attorneys, social workers and investigators, exclusively trained in meeting the particularized needs of developing adolescents.
Legal representation can begin early if police want to question a juvenile about alleged delinquent or criminal activity. If the police are seeking to question a juvenile (ages 10 to 17) residing in Luzerne County, please contact us personally by telephone at 570-830-5116 or visit our office.
Otherwise, representation begins when the young person receives a Juvenile Delinquency Written Allegation.
The JDU team immediately gets to work on a comprehensive case plan for the client, including a thorough assessment of the juvenile’s background and social history, which allows the attorney to best advocate for the client’s individualized expressed interests.
The Unit works diligently to investigate disputed factual issues, advocates for diversion from the system if appropriate, attends all intake interviews with probation staff, requests records if necessary, files pre-trial motions and performs pre-adjudication and trial preparation. The interdisciplinary team approach continues throughout the life of the case until termination of the Court’s jurisdiction, which may include trial work, appeals, disposition planning, post-disposition advocacy and expungement.
The Juvenile Defender Unit (JDU) has created “Your Guide to Juvenile Court (PDF),” a booklet that explains the Juvenile Court process, the rights of juveniles, and their legal options in simple and easy-to-understand language. It is given to our clients at the initial office meeting and serves as a handy refresher to have at home.
The Luzerne County Bar Association has been awarded by the Pennsylvania Bar Association for donating the printing costs of this invaluable tool.
In addition to their professional law school doctorate, master’s level and/or bachelor level college degrees, licensures and years of experience, the Juvenile Defender Unit (JDU) staff actively attends training seminars sponsored by:
The training seminars are held to ensure that staff has the most up-to-date legal knowledge available in the juvenile justice community. The staff has also participated as course presenters and organized local juvenile defense legal training.
The Unit works with juvenile human service providers to remain knowledgeable about the services offered. These efforts allow our clients to receive the most effective and individualized services available to meet their needs. Staff periodically travel to residential treatment providers and meet with local service providers to ensure that they have current awareness and familiarity of the programs offered.
The Unit attends roundtable meetings with the Juvenile Court Judge, the District Attorney’s Office, the Juvenile Probation Office, and various juvenile service providers to discuss ways to improve the system. The JDU also participates in the Luzerne County Juvenile Justice Task Force, the Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) law enforcement / youth training project, and has representation in local and state committees and agencies involving juvenile justice issues. We take an active role in voicing the collective needs of our clients to system partners whenever possible.