- Juvenile court
A juvenile court or young offender court is a court of law having special authority to try and pass judgments for
crimes committed by children or adolescents who have not attained the age of majority. In most modern legal systems, crimes committed by children and minors are treated differently and differentially regarding the same crimes committed by adults.
Severe, like murder or gang-related, offenses in 44 states of the
USAare treated the same as crimes committed by adults: "Beginning around 35 years ago, increases in violent juvenile crime spurred many states to modify laws so that young people could be tried as adults for serious crimes. By 2004, 44 states and the District of Columbiapermitted judges to transfer juveniles to adult-criminal courts. No national data exist on the number of juvenile offenders prosecuted as adults." [http://sciencenews.org/articles/20070421/fob1.asp] "The main difference between a juvenile court and an adult court in England is that the juvenile court has a much wider jurisdiction in terms of the offenses it can try. It can deal with a juvenile for any offense except homicide, although it is not boundto deal with a young person for a serious offense such as robbery or rape; on such a charge he can be committed to the Crown Court for trial in the same manner as an adult." [Encyclopaedia Britannica. Crime and Punishment. Treatment of juvenile offenders. Reformatory movement.]
Purpose of Juvenile Court
Juvenile courts exist because of a widespread belief that children are not always fully responsible for their actions, and that neither they nor society are best served by treating young children like adults.
The first juvenile court appeared in Chicago in 1899. It was founded on two principles: that juveniles were not ready to be held accountable for their actions, and was that they were not yet fully developed and could rehabilitate easier than adults. The idea was that the court should take over the discipline of troubled youth which would then establish a philosophy and a procedure. [David C. Anderson. "When Should Kids Go to Jail?" The American Prospect (2002)]
The juvenile courts categorize juveniles into three types: those who are charged with criminal conduct, those who have been neglected, and those who have been accused of a status offense or conduct such as truancy or disobedience with reasonable parenting. Therefore the juvenile courts were there to provide rehabilitation instead of punishment. The idea was to focus on their needs, providing treatment instead of depriving them of their liberty and protecting them against self-incrimination. [Juvenile Law Encyclopedia. Modern Juvenile Law ]
Some programs offer education, job skills, counseling, drug treatment, and other programs for rehabilitation.
United States of America
In all but three states, anyone charged with committing a criminal act before his or her eighteenth birthday is initially processed as a juvenile defendant. In
New York, Connecticutand North Carolina, however, the minimum age at which all accused persons are charged as adults is 16, in other states such as Washington the minimum age depends on the seriousness of the crime.
The U.S. Supreme Court held in 1967, that children accused in a juvenile delinquency proceeding have the rights to due process, counsel, and against self-incrimination. Writing for the majority, Associate Justice
Abe Fortaswrote, "Under our Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court." [ " In re Gault", 387 U.S. 1, 28. ]
Eligibility for Juvenile Court
There is no set age by which a child is accountable in the juvenile court system. Children below age seven are considered too young, and those above age fourteen are considered old enough to be held accountable in either juvenile or adult courts. [cite web|url=http://criminal.findlaw.com/crimes/juvenile-justice/when-minor-commits-crime.html|title=When a Minor Commits A Crime|publisher=Find Law |accessdate=2007-05-31] Not all minors who commit a crime end up in juvenile (or adult) court. A police officer has three choices:
# Detain and warn the minor against further violations, and then let the minor go free
# Detain and warn the minor against further violations, but hold the minor until a parent or guardian comes for the minor
# Place the minor in custody and refer the case to a juvenile court.
Can Formal Charges Be Avoided?
In a juvenile court, it is possible to have formal charges being placed avoided. "Find Law" lists seven official factors that can help formal charges be avoided: [cite web|url=http://criminal.findlaw.com/crimes/juvenile-justice/when-minor-commits-crime(1).html|title=When a Minor Commits A Crime|publisher=Find Law |accessdate=2007-05-31]
# The severity of the offense. A serious crime is more likely to result in the filing of a petition than a less serious crime.
# The minor's age. Petitions are more likely to be filed in cases involving older children.
# The minor's past record. Formal charges are more likely when a minor has been previously involved with juvenile court.
# The strength of the evidence that the minor committed a crime. Obviously, stronger evidence leads to a greater likelihood of formal charges.
# The minor's gender. Formal charges are more likely to be filed against boys than against girls.
# The minor's social history. Petitions are more likely to be filed when children have a history of problems at home or at school.
# The parent's or guardian's apparent ability to control the minor. The greater the lack of parental control, the more likely the intake officer is to file a petition.
Along with these seven, five "unofficial" factors can sway an official:
# The minor's attitude. Formal proceedings are less likely when a child shows remorse for committing a crime.
# The minor's appearance. If the young person dresses well, is neatly groomed and is polite, intake personnel are more likely to handle the case informally.
# Whether the minor has family or community support. The more support the young person has, the more likely the intake officer is to deal with the case informally.
# Whether the minor has an attorney. Disposing of a case informally may be less likely when a child has a lawyer.
# Ethnicity and socio-economic status. Statistics suggest (though few, if any, intake officers would admit) that the ethnicity and socio-economic status of minors often affects how aggressively their cases are handled.
In his 1997 book "No Matter How Loud I Shout", a study of the Los Angeles' Juvenile Courts,
Edward Humesargued that the system is in need of a revolutionary reform. He stated that the system sends too many children with good chances of rehabilitation to adult court, while pushing aside and acquitting children early on the road in crime instead of giving counseling, support, and accountability. 57% of children arrested for the first time are never arrested again, 27% get arrested one or two more times, and 16% commit four or more crimes.
* [http://www.penalreform.org/juvenile-justice.html Information about Juvenile Justice] from the Penal Reform International website.Dead link|date=April 2008
* [http://njdc.info/ National Juvenile Defender Center]
* [http://resources.jacobrcampbell.com/juvenile+justice.php Juveniles involved in the Justice System] a review of the juvenile justice system in the United States, comparing it to Canada.
* [http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20070421/fob1.asp Violent Justice: Adult system fails young offenders]
* [http://www.preventdelinquency.org/ Prevent Delinquency Project]
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