Right to counsel

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Litigation, Truancy - Petition Against Child

In Washington State, children only have a right to counsel when facing incarceration/detention in a contempt proceeding.  Bellevue Sch. Dist. v. E.S., 257 P.3d 570, 577 (Wash. 2011) (declining to find right to counsel in truancy proceedings, but stating that if child adjudicated as truant later cited for contempt due to failure to comply with truancy order, then “We readily agree the child should be afforded appointed counsel at a contempt proceeding");  Tetro v. Tetro, 544 P.2d 17 (Wash. 1975) (recognizing right to counsel in civil contempt proceedings under state constitution).


In Lake Wash. Sch. Dist. v. C.L., 2016 Wash. App. LEXIS 3080 (Wash. App. 2016), the school district conceded that the addition of RCW 28A.225.090(1)(f), which enabled judges to place truant juveniles in a crisis residential center or HOPE center, subjected children to “potential incarceration” at the initial truancy hearing and made them “entitled to counsel at that hearing” (presumably pursuant to E.S.).  The court accepted the concession and reversed/remanded for further proceedings. However, in 2017, the legislature removed RCW 28A.225.090(1)(f) and replaced it with a provision only authorizing detention at the “violation of court order” stage.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes