A birds-eye view of an empty street with all red lights

No.  The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that the right to privacy includes an interest in making certain kinds of important decisions – including those related to birth control and whether or not to have a baby.

A minor (a person under the age of 18) does not need to notify parents or have permission to get a prescription for birth control.  When you visit a medical clinic, you have a right to keep your medical records private and confidential, and your parents will not be informed of your visit.  However, if a doctor suspects a minor patient is a victim of abuse or neglect, the doctor is legally required to report these findings to the police.  Some insurance companies may also have differing confidentiality rules.  If you are covered by your parent’s health insurance, be sure to ask the clinic and your insurance company about their specific parental notification and nondisclosure policies.

Your first appearance in court is called an arraignment, an advisement, or an initial hearing. At an arraignment, the judge will tell you what you are accused of, and explain your rights in court.  The judge will then ask you whether you committed the offense.  All you have to say is that you admit or you deny the charges against you.  This is like pleading guilty or not guilty in adult court.  Unless you have decided, with the help of a lawyer and your parents or guardians, to admit the charges, it is best to say “deny.”  You can change your mind later.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will usually appoint one for you at the arraignment.  If you can afford a lawyer but don’t have one yet, you can ask the court for a reasonable amount of time to find a lawyer before you decide anything.

If the court keeps you in detention after your arraignment, you will have a detention review every 30 days.  These are similar to bail hearings for adults.  At a detention hearing the judge will decide if you should stay confined until the next hearing but no longer than 30 days without a review.  The judge will consider a number of factors, such as the seriousness of the offense you are accused of, whether keeping you confined is necessary to protect the victim or the public, and how likely it is that you will run away or not show up for your court hearings if you are released.

If the court decides to release you, you may be released to the custody of your parents or guardians or to the custody of the Division of Juvenile Justice. The court will also set conditions of release. These are extra rules that you have to follow when you are released.  If you violate any of your conditions of release, you could be sent back to detention or have the conditions of your release modified.  Common conditions of release include requirements to:

  • comply with a curfew;
  • attend school and stay out of trouble there;
  • stay away from drugs or alcohol; and
  • be restricted to your house unless you have adult

Another common type of court hearing is an evidentiary hearing. At this kind of hearing, your lawyer may argue that certain pieces of evidence should not be allowed when the prosecutor tries to prove you committed the offense.  For example, if you think the police searched you illegally, there might be a hearing to decide whether evidence found in the search can be used at your adjudication.  If you confessed because you think the police threatened you, the hearing might be about suppressing the confession.

At this stage, you have many decisions to make, including:

  • Do you want to admit that you committed the offense you are accused of?
  • Do you want to accept a plea deal the prosecutor offers to reduce the charges against you to a less serious offense, or to recommend a lesser punishment if you admit that you committed the offense you are charged with?
  • Do you want your case to be decided by a judge or a jury?
  • What witnesses do you want to testify for you?
  • Do you want to testify yourself? What will you say if you testify?
  • Do you want your adjudication to be open to the public?

You should always talk to your lawyer and your parents or guardians to make sure you understand the consequences of each decision. Sometimes there are special court hearings about one or more of these issues.

There are also status hearings about routine things, such as whether the lawyers are ready and what date the adjudication will occur.  You have a right to attend every court hearing about your case, but you may not have to be there if you don’t want to be. You should ask your lawyer what will happen at each hearing and whether you need to be there.

The right against self-incrimination is similar to the right to remain silent.  It means you do not have to talk about what happened. The exception is that you must answer whether you admit or deny the charges against you.  Your lawyer cannot answer that question for you.  You may also be required to answer “yes” or “no” when the judge asks you whether you understand your rights.

You have the right to refuse a lawyer and represent yourself, but the court will consider carefully whether your decision is voluntary and intelligent. This means that nobody has forced you to make the decision and that you understand the consequences of not having a lawyer.  If you are charged with a felony level offense, you must at least talk with a lawyer before deciding to represent yourself.  The right to a lawyer is yours so it is important that the lawyer talk to you, in addition to your parents.