Guide Massachusetts law about the juvenile justice system

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on juvenile justice system law

Massachusetts laws

Child Requiring Assistance (formerly Children in Need of Services (CHINS))

MGL c.119, s.21
MGL c.119, s.39E-39J
St.2012, c.240

Delinquent children

MGL c.119, s.52-74 

St. 2013, Ch. 84
An Act Expanding Juvenile Jurisdiction. Places 17-year-olds accused of crimes under the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile courts

St.2014, c.189
Juvenile Life Sentences for First Degree Murder. Amends existing law to permit parole for juveniles serving life sentences for first degree murder

Juvenile Court

Court rules


Selected cases

Comm. v. Cole C., 92 Mass. App. Ct. 653 (2018)
Discusses in detail the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court over individuals who are indicted as youthful offenders after they turn 18.

Comm. v. Gavin G., 437 Mass. 470 (2002)
"The SJC held that while Juvenile Court judges do have the authority to order expungement of police records, no such authority exists to order expungement of probation records."

Comm. v. J.A., a juvenile, 478 Mass. 385 (2017)
A juvenile cannot be indicted as a youthful offender based on charges of cruelty to animals and bestiality, "given that the language in G. L. c. 199, § 54, the youthful offender statute, allowing a juvenile to be tried as a youthful offender for an offense involving the infliction of "serious bodily harm," does not apply to animal as well as human victims."

Comm. v. Smith, 471 Mass. 161 (2015)
Going forward, 17 year olds "must be afforded a meaningful opportunity to consult with an interested adult before waiving Miranda rights."

Deal v. Commissioner of Correction, 475 Mass. 307 (2016)
Dept. of Correction must consider juvenile homicide offenders' suitability for minimum security classification on a case-by-case basis. Describes the classification process in great detail.

Kenniston v. Dept. of Youth Services, 453 Mass. 179 (2009)
The SJC held that the law permitting DYS to hold 18 year olds for an additional 3 years if they "would be physically dangerous to the public" (G. L. c. 120, §§ 17-19) is unconstitutional "because it violates substantive due process requirements."


Comm. v. Perez, 477 Mass. 677 (2017)
"Where a juvenile is sentenced for a nonmurder offense or offenses and the aggregate time to be served prior to parole eligibility exceeds that applicable to a juvenile convicted of murder, the sentence cannot be reconciled with art. 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights unless, after a hearing considering the appropriate factors, the judge makes a finding that the circumstances warrant treating the juvenile more harshly for parole purposes than a juvenile convicted of murder."

Diatchenko v. District Attorney for the Suffolk Dist., 466 Mass. 655 (2013)
The SJC concluded "that the imposition of a sentence of life without the possibility of parole on juveniles who are under the age of eighteen when they commit the crime of murder in the first degree is unconstitutional..."

Diatchenko v. District Attorney for the Suffolk Dist., 471 Mass. 12 (2015)
Juvenile homicide offenders serving mandatory sentences of life without parole have a right to counsel at their initial parole hearing, including the right to have counsel appointed if they are indigent. They also have the right to "public funds, if they are indigent, in order to secure reasonably necessary expert assistance at their initial parole hearing." In addition, a juvenile homicide offender who is denied parole has a right to obtain judicial review of the parole board's decision through an action in the nature of certiorari, brought in the Superior Court.


Web sources

Handbook for Parents, Legal Guardians and Custodians in Child Requiring Assistance Cases, Mass. Juvenile Court, December, 2012 
Explains the process in plain language

Juvenile Justice Standards, IJA-ABA, 1996 
These standards were designed by the Institute of Judicial Administration and the American Bar Association to establish the best possible juvenile justice system for our society. 

Quick Reference on CRA (Child Requiring Assistance), Children's Law Center, June 1, 2013 
A handy guide for child advocates in Massachusetts

Last update: February 20, 2018


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