Every citizen of the United States has basic rights when placed under arrest, such as the right to remain silent and the right to a fair and speedy trial. Youth in Mississippi, or those who are under the age of 18 when placed under arrest, enjoy those same constitutional rights plus additional rights under state law.

Per the Mississippi Bar, when an officer of the law arrests a teen, he or she must notify the youth court judge or a higher designee immediately. He or she must also make every effort to notify the youth’s parent, guardian or custodian and invite that person to attend the questioning.

If law enforcement wishes to fingerprint or photograph a teen suspect, it may only do so if the suspected crime is a felony and/or involves the use or possession of a dangerous weapon. Though an officer may request a blood or breath sample from a teen, he or she may not pump the youth’s stomach for evidence of drinking or drug use. If law enforcement places a juvenile in a police lineup, all other suspects must resemble that teen.

Mississippi categorizes youth crimes in one of three ways. A status offense is an offense that involves habitual disobedience, the habitual and willful violation of school rules, chronic absenteeism and running away without good reason. A person between the ages of seven and 18 may be guilty of a status offense.

A criminal offense is the most serious type of offense a juvenile can commit. Examples of this type of crime include armed robbery and murder. The courts charge juveniles who are over the age of 13 and who commit a criminal offense as adults. If convicted, a juvenile faces the penalty of life in prison or death.

Mississippi considers all other crimes, or those that do not fall within the “status offense” or “criminal offense” categories, as delinquent acts. A delinquent act is one that the courts would consider a crime had an adult committed it.

With both status offenses and delinquent acts, the juvenile judge may use his or her discretion when deciding an appropriate punishment. The state will keep the juvenile’s criminal record confidential until the teen reaches the age of 20, at which point it will seal it.

This article is not meant to serve as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.

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