129 Kids and the Law Delinquent Children Delinquent acts are acts committed by a child between the ages of 12* and 18 that would be crimes punishable by incarceration for six months or longer if the offender were an adult. In Massachusetts, to be charged as an adult, a per- son must be age 18 or older at the time the law was allegedly broken. Diversion from the formal juvenile court process can occur at multiple points as noted below. * Prior to July 1, 2018, a child as young as 7 could be charged. When can the police question a child? A police officer can stop a child when the officer has a reasonable suspicion (more than a hunch) that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be com- mitted. When a child is stopped, a police officer can ask some questions, such as name and address. The police officer can also ask where the child is going, where they have been, and questions about the behavior that caused the offi- cer to stop the child. The child is not required to answer the officer’s questions. A police officer should not frisk (pat down) a person for weapons unless the officer has a reasonable belief the person is armed and dangerous. How does a delinquency action begin? 1. With a few exceptions, a police officer may arrest a child under the same conditions and circumstances as a police officer may arrest an adult for a suspected criminal activity. 2. A police officer or any other person can file an “Application for a Delin- quent Complaint” in the clerk’s office of the juvenile court in the same way a criminal complaint can be filed against an adult. 3. Alternatively, a police officer may choose not to begin a delinquency ac- tion. The police can choose to divert a child to receive services through a delinquency prevention program. If the child successfully completes the program, this will keep the child out of the formal juvenile court process. Delinquent Children 11 11