Purpose clauses, 2016

  • No clause

  • Parens patriae

  • Due process era

  • Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

  • Developmental Approach

Pennsylvania’s purpose clause retains some parens patriae language, has due process elements, and phrases from the Adoption and Safe Families Act (1997) were noted.  It aligns with the BARJ model as it mentions: providing balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed and the development of competencies to enable children to become responsible and productive members of the community. The use of evidence-based practices whenever possible is mentioned, but not required, which shows signs of a shift toward the developmental approach.  A court rule of purpose and construction establishes uniform practice and procedure for the Juvenile Act. 

42 PA ST §6301; PA R.C.P Rule 101

Intake and diversion, 2016

Initial intake and diversion decision is at the discretion of the juvenile court intake officer.

In Pennsylvania, when law enforcement officers (LEO's) take custody pursuant to the laws of arrest, the juvenile may remain in secure detention at the station for up to 6 hours, longer if not in a secure situation (unspecified limit), or must be brought before the court or to a shelter or detention facility if not released to parents. LEO's must file a report within 24 hours or the next court day, and a hearing is held within 72 hours.  Duly authorized officers of the court (typically JPO's) and LEO's may similarly take custody of youth who (allegedly) have run away or violated probation.

Otherwise, any person may file a petition (complaint).  At intake, the court Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) considers whether a delinquency proceeding should be commenced. The JPO may informally adjust allegations without adjudication, providing ‘counsel and advice’ directly and/or with assistance from other service providers for up to 6 months unless extended by the court (which can extend up to 3 additional months). If the juvenile successfully completes the informal adjustment, prosecution is barred; otherwise, the petition is filed to initiate judicial action. There are conflicts with court rules that appear to restrict this practice for status offenses (labeled 'dependent' in PA) mentioned in comments, though comments are non-binding.

Once a petition is filed, the court can permit youth via “consent decree” to participate in a program of supervision and services. The juvenile must admit to facts that bring the case within jurisdiction of the court and an agreement the child and parent/s must sign contain terms and conditions. Upon successful completion, the petition is dismissed.

Pre-petition court diversion time limit/s exist.

In Pennsylvania, pre-petition informal adjustments can last for up to 6 months and may be extended 3 additional months with judicial consent.  Once a petition is filed, consent decrees have no specified statutory time limit.

Courtroom shackling, 2015

Restricted by legislature

Pennsylvania statute 42 PA CS § 6336.2. (eff. 7/28/12) and PA Rule of Juvenile Court Procedure No. 139 indicate that restraints shall be removed prior to commencement of a court proceeding except when the court determines on the record after providing the child with an opportunity to be heard, that they are necessary [to prevent: harm to self/other, disruptive courtroom behavior, or flight risk—with evidence of past related behavior]. Some restraint types are listed and the purposes of the PA Juvenile Act are stated.

Competency, 2015

Pennsylvania does not have juvenile-specific competency statute or court rules. The state supreme court applied the state’s mental health act to juveniles in a case (see 44 A.3d 657, 2012). Mental Health Statutes align with the Dusky standard and detail many requirements for [all] people.

  • No juvenile standard

  • Juvenile standard is the adult standard

  • Juvenile justice standard exists

  • JJ standard includes developmental immaturity

Sex offender registration, 2015


Statute permits or requires juveniles adjudicated in juvenile court on sex offender registries. While statute still requires registration in Pennsylvania, the practice has ended after being ruled unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Registerable offenses vary by state. Some of these registries are publicly available.

About this project

Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

Continue reading »


Tell us what you think of JJGPS. Questions, feedback, or other comments are welcomed.

Questions or feedback »

Follow on Twitter »