Juveniles Charged and Tried as Adults
How it works
Children and adults are different, and I think we can all agree on that fact. The United States law routinely recognizes when a juvenile is prohibited from buying a pack of cigarettes, beer, or voting in the U.S Presidential elections. In most states and District of Columbia, individuals under 18 years of age are consider juveniles. In fact, the first juvenile court was established in 1899 in Cook County Chicago, Illinois (Hemmns, Brody, Spohn, 2016, pp 143). Over the last few years, we have seen more frequently in the news juveniles being charged as adults in the criminal justice system.
And not only they are being tried, but also convicted as adults. Many controversies have surrounded around if juveniles should be rehabilitated rather than going through the adult criminal system. Adult courts and juveniles court differ from one another, prosecutors look at different factors before charging the juvenile as an adult. If the juvenile is found guilty of the crime there are different sentencing options. Also, there are controversies around if juveniles are competent to stand trial and understand the criminal proceeding, and if they are mentally capable for incarceration.
Despite a growing similarity between juvenile and adult criminal proceeding, some differences persist. One of the most notable differences is the role the judge plays in the court. First, a juvenile court judge takes a more active part in proceedings. The judge is expected to act as a wise parent rather than as an impartial arbiter. Also, a juvenile judge may initiate questioning of an alleged offender, cross-examine witnesses, and bring up a juvenile’s background. Moreover, another difference between the juvenile and adult system is the severity of the punishment imposed by the judge. The purpose of juvenile courts is to rehabilitate a delinquent and prevent any future behavior, instead of imposing a long jail sentence. On the other hand, the adult court system is more focus on punishing the defendant according to the crime he/she allegedly committed. Also, the adult court is more formal, for example, the rules regarding whether evidence is admissible. The adult court system is focused on punishment based on the crime committed. In contrast, the juvenile court system philosophy involves restorative justice, which involves a youth offender taking responsibility for his or her own behavior and redressing harm to a victim and community (Alarid, 2014, pp309).
All states have provisions to move a case from juvenile courts to adult courts for violent and serious crimes. Prior to moving the case from juvenile court to adult court a hearing must be held for a judge to rule on the decision. According to Griffin (2003) state transfer laws define categories of juveniles who, because of their ages, their past records, or the seriousness of the charges against them, or in some cases must be tried in courts of criminal jurisdiction (pg2). There are certain factors prosecution look at before charging a juvenile as an adult, age, type of lever of offense, and previous criminal record. Some states have automatic transfer laws that require juvenile cases to be transferred to adult criminal court if two factors are true; the offender is a certain age or older and the charges involved a serious or violent offense, such as rape or murder. Cristian Fernandez a 12-year-old boy from Jacksonville Florida case became national news in June 2011, when he was indicted for first degree murder in the death of his two-year old step-brother, David. State Attorney Angela Corey decided to charge Fernandez in the death of David because the state of Florida is one of thirteen state that have not imposed a minimum age for prosecution of a child as an adult (Even if those two factors are present a juvenile is subject to transfer. There are 15 states in the United States that have presumptive wavier laws which designated a category of cases in which a waiver to criminal court is rebuttably presumed to be appropriate. In some states, the type of offense is that one that matters. For example, in Alaska children of any age charged with certain violent felonies are rebuttably presumed to be unamenable to treatment. The state of Utah has a minimum age 16 years old in which they can charge a juvenile as an adult (Griffin, 2003, pp6)
In the early 80s, many states passed legal reforms intended to get tough on juvenile crime. One of those reforms was the revision of transfer, also called waiver or certification laws (Griffin, 2003). While the age at which juveniles can be transferred to the adult system varies across States, most states will transfer youth ages 14 an older who have committed a serious violent offence. Typically, there are four categories of offenses for which juveniles of a certain age may be transferred; 1) any crime, 2) capital crimes and murder, 3) certain violent felonies, and 4) certain crimes committed by juveniles with prior records (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). Transfer, also known as waiver or certification, can be waived in three ways; statutory exclusion, this refers to state legislate statues automatically exclude certain juvenile offenders from the juvenile court jurisdiction and their cases be filed directly with adult courts. Judicial waiver, authority to transfer a case to criminal court is given to a juvenile court judge, who certifies, remands, or blinds over for criminal prosecutions. Concurrent jurisdiction, the original jurisdiction is shared by both adult and juvenile courts, in either which a prosecutor has discretion to file (Alarid, 2014, pp305).
Alarid, L. F. (2015). Community-Based Corrections (10th ed., pp. 300-323). Belmont: Cengage Learning.
Griffin, P. (2003, October). Trying and Sentencing Juveniles as Adults: An analysis of State Transfer and Blended Sentencing Laws [Electronic version]. National Center for Juvenile Justice.
Thirteen States Have No Minimum Age for Adult Prosecution of Children. (2016, September). In Equal Justice Initiative . Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://eji.org/news/13-states-lack-minimum-age-for-trying-kids-as-adults
Snyder, H. N., & Sickmund, M. (2006, March). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report. U.S Department of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/nr2006/downloads/NR2006.pdf
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