Detention of Juveniles

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A child alleged to be dependent or neglected may not be detained in a jail or other facility intended or used for the detention of adults charged with criminal offenses or of children alleged to be delinquent. T.C.A. § 37-1-116(d). A child alleged to be delinquent or unruly may be detained in a jail or other facility for the detention of adults only if:

  1. Other facilities listed in T.C.A. § 37-1-116(a)(3) are not available;
  2. The detention is in a room separate and removed from those for adults; and
  3. It appears to the satisfaction of the court that public safety and protection reasonably require detention, and it so orders.

T.C.A. § 37-1-116(a)(4). See State v. Carroll, 36 S.W.3d 854, 862 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1999) (“Tenn.Code. Ann. § 37-1-116 (1996) explicitly limits appropriate places of detention for juveniles, as opposed to custody of juveniles ...”).

The sheriff or other official in charge of a jail or other facility for the detention of adult offenders or persons charged with crime must immediately inform the court if a person who is or appears to be under 18 years of age is received at the facility, and must bring the person before the court upon request or deliver the person to a detention or shelter care facility designated by the court. T.C.A. § 37-1-116(b).

Pursuant to T.C.A. § 37-1-116(e), no child may be detained or otherwise placed in any jail or other facility for the detention of adults, except as provided in T.C.A. § 37-1-116(c) and (h). A juvenile may be temporarily detained for as short a time as feasible, not to exceed 48 hours, in an adult jail or lockup, if:

  1. The juvenile is accused of a serious crime against persons, including criminal homicide, forcible rape, mayhem, kidnapping, aggravated assault, robbery and extortion accompanied by threats of violence;
  2. The county has a low population density not to exceed 35 people per square mile;
  3. The facility and program have received prior certification by the Tennessee Corrections Institute as providing detention and treatment with total sight and sound separation from adult detainees and prisoners, including no access by trustees;
  4. There is no juvenile court or other public authority or private agency as provided in T.C.A. § 37-1-116(f) able and willing to contract for the placement of the juvenile; and
  5. A determination is made that there is no existing acceptable alternative placement available for the juvenile.

T.C.A. § 37-1-116(h).

The attorney general has opined “that a juvenile offender who has attained the age of majority before being convicted of an offense by a juvenile court may not be held in an adult facility, such as the local jail. Such a defendant may only be held in a juvenile detention facility ... and may not be held beyond the defendant's nineteenth birthday, regardless of whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony.” Op. Tenn. Atty. Gen. No. 04-038 (March 12, 2004).

If a case is transferred to another court for criminal prosecution, the child may be transferred to the appropriate officer or detention facility in accordance with the law governing the detention of persons charged with crime. T.C.A. § 37-1-116(c). After a petition has been filed in juvenile court alleging delinquency based on conduct that is designated a crime or public offense under the laws, including local ordinances, of this state, the court, before hearing the petition on the merits, may transfer the child to the sheriff of the county to be held according to law and to be dealt with as an adult in the criminal court of competent jurisdiction. T.C.A. § 37-1-134(a).