Some of the specific changes are described more fully below:
• Divides designated felonies into two classes so that lesser offenses carry shorter sentences. Prior to changes, there were no separate classes so all felonies were punishable by the same penalty range. Now, the law provides for two separate classes, with penalties to take into account the severity of offense and the level of risk.
• Clarifies that the purposes of delinquency proceedings includes protecting the public, holding children accountable for their actions, strengthening families, and rehabilitating young offenders so they become productive members of society
• Clarifies that the child and the state are the parties in a delinquency proceeding. Parents are entitled to be notified of hearings, and have the right to be present for hearings and to be heard in those hearings, but are not parties.
• Provides that a child’s right to be represented by an attorney cannot be waived by the child’s parent but can be waived by the child.
• Provides the child’s attorney the right to access documents related to the case from schools, service providers and certain government agencies with the child’s permission and a court order and without having to obtain parental consent.
• Requires the court to appoint a separate guardian ad litem for the child when his or her parents fail to come to court or are unwilling or unable to protect the child’s best interests.
• Limits the admissibility of statements by the child during intake, screening, treatment, or evaluation from evidence, unless the child tells a conflicting story in court.
• Clarifies the circumstances under which a child under 15 can be held in an adult jail. In most cases, the child may be held for processing for up to 6 hours.
• Clarifies that children held for delinquent acts are entitled to request bail and must be informed of this right. The court can release a child on bail if the child is likely to appear in court, does not pose a significant risk to the community or him or herself, and does not pose a significant risk of committing a felony, intimidating witnesses, or obstructing justice.
• As mentioned earlier, an attorney now must file a delinquency petition. Before, any person could make a petition, which a judge had to endorse as being in the best interest of the public or the child.
While there are many more changes that were made to the Juvenile Code, those listed here demonstrate the goal of the revisions – to ensure that children’s rights are protected, encourage legal representation in juvenile proceedings, and make sure that judges can impose punishments that fit the offense.