Overdue for Justice: An Assessment of Access to and Quality of Juvenile Defense Counsel in Michigan


Mandatory fines in juvenile proceedings include $25 per disposition order for the Crime Victim Rights Fund, $50 adjudication fee for each misdemeanor, and $68 for each felony. 

Michigan’s constitution mandates that every young person receive legal representation, yet the state currently ranks 44th out of 50 in per capita indigent defense spending. The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) conducted an assessment of juvenile defense delivery systems in Michigan by evaluating access to quality representation and identifying barriers that may prevent quality representation for youth. NJDC found a lack of state oversight to ensure that county-based juvenile defense delivery systems provide effective services, coupled with an absence of state funding. Consequently, juvenile courts impose fines, fees, and costs on youth and families, who are also required to reimburse counties for defense counsel, creating a significant barrier to justice within the indigent defense system. This report concludes with detailed recommendations for reforms at both the state and local levels, aiming to guarantee that youth involved in delinquency proceedings have access to effective legal representation.

You can read the full text here

Key Findings:

  • Assessment interviews suggest the cost of counsel is one reason the waiver of counsel occurs in Michigan.
  • Michigan requires parents and youth to reimburse attorney fees.
  • Kids have been kept on probation because they had outstanding fees.
  • Financial ability is often assumed, and parents must provide extensive documentation to prove financial inability to pay to mitigate costs.
  • Potential costs and fees in Michigan’s Juvenile Courts include the costs of a court-appointed attorney, out-of-home placement, medical and dental care, clothes, probation supervision, in-home services, specialized treatments ordered by the court, a fee for conviction, an assessment to the Crime Victim Rights Fund and any other reimbursable services identified by the courts.


  • Provide adequate funding to support and maintain all areas of standards.
  • Eliminate juvenile court-related fees, fines, and costs imposed on youth and families.
Kim Tandy
National Juvenile Defender Center