The Juvenile Court
Chapter 13 reviews the workings of the juvenile court, including the due process rights of juveniles and juvenile waiver.
ORGANIZATION AND JURISDICTION
- The reasoning behind the invention of the juvenile court and its proposed goals was that such a court would deal with juvenile delinquency more effectively, as well as protect youths from the dangers of being handled in parallel with adult offenders.
- The structure of juvenile courts varies widely. In some populous jurisdictions, they're part of a juvenile justice center that works with other youth agencies. In other places, they're a specialized court that operates in the courthouse along with the other courts. Juvenile courts might also be called "family courts" or "magistrate courts."
- Juvenile courts are almost exclusively a state and county responsibility. The federal government specifies some of the rules and laws that apply to juvenile courts, but the federal government generally defers to the states on juvenile delinquency.
- This fragmentation of juvenile court structure is a problem with two possible fixes. The first involves a coordinating function in which the various judges dealing with the same family meet and discuss the case. The second solution is to institute a unified court system in which one judge handles all aspects of a case.
- The key players in the juvenile court represent varying interests but must work together to ensure justice, provide for the best interests of juveniles, and move cases through the system. The key players are the juvenile court judge, the prosecutor, the juvenile defense counsel (including public defenders), juvenile intake officers, and juvenile probation officers.
JUVENILE COURT PROCESS
- The court process includes custody and detention, petitions and summons, juvenile court hearings (preliminary hearings, adjudicatory hearings, and dispositional hearings), jury trials, and plea bargaining.
- Giving juveniles the constitutional right to due process changes the atmosphere and philosophy of the juvenile court from one in which juvenile justice officials collaborate in deciding how the juvenile might best be rehabilitated to one that is more adversarial.
- Juveniles enjoy due process rights comparable to adults only in adjudicatory proceedings.
- In In re Gault, the Supreme Court ruled that that juveniles should have four constitutional rights if curtailment of their freedom was possible: the right to a lawyer, the right against self-incrimination, the right to notice of charges, and the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.
- In 1975, the Supreme Court extended the protection against double jeopardy to juveniles in Breed v. Jones.
- As the juvenile justice system becomes more legalistic and adversarial, it's also becoming more open to public scrutiny, and more juvenile records are being made public.
TRYING JUVENILES AS ADULTS
- Some juveniles commit such serious acts that they're sent to criminal court instead of juvenile court. Juvenile waiver exposes the youth to more severe sanctions, but also allows for full constitutional rights.
- Basically, four issues must be decided in order to waive a case to criminal court: age, seriousness of the offense, probable cause, amenability to treatment.
- Sometimes courts use blended sentencing, which uses features from both the juvenile and criminal courts. The five types of blended sentencing are juvenile-exclusive, juvenile-inclusive, juvenile-contiguous, criminal-exclusive, and criminal-inclusive.