The Juvenile Justice System (JJS)was created with the intention to rehabilitate, and treat the youth while promoting safety in the society, holding them accountable for their actions, and restoring the youth to wholeness (“Youth in the Justice System: An Overview, n.d.”). Research in brain development suggests that juveniles are not mentally mature enough to make decisions, and so they cannot be treated the same as adults. For this reason juveniles were not labeled as criminals, and so juvenile proceedings are categorized as a civil rather than a criminal matter (Atkinson, 1967).
Since the first juvenile court in opened in Chicago in 1899, the emphasis was on creating individualized treatment plans for youth. Each case was to be handled in a unique manner where the focus is on the specific circumstances of the offender than matching sentences to their offenses. These youth offenders have rights as adults to due process of law. They also have the right to request that their case remains in juvenile court. Juvenile laws are separate from State Criminal codes. These courts bring youth to answer to acts of delinquency, and not (Butts & Mitchell, 2000).
Today juvenile court procedures are changing. This change is influenced by State and Federal laws that suggest that youth offenders be sent to criminal courts where they can be tried as adults. (Butts & Mitchell, 2000). Through judicial waivers, and transfers a growing number of juveniles are finding themselves in adult courts at an accelerated rate.
Criminal court transfer
Criminal court transfer of juveniles has captured the attention of policymakers across the border. Issues surrounding juvenile-criminal boundary represent the most direct dispute, and controversy in the justice process (Butts & Mitchell, 2000).
Discretionary judicial waiver
Traditionally juveniles are transferred to criminal court through a method called discretionary judicial waiver. Laws surrounding judicial waiver permits a juvenile court judge to transfer a delinquency case to criminal court (Butts & Mitchell, 2000).
This does not occur impulsively, but after the judge deems that the case meets the criteria or transfer, and waiver. Often the prosecutor initiates a request for waver, but has the burden to proof that the case meets the requirement in judicial proceedings. Two cases listed below focus on the issue of juvenile court vs criminal court jurisdiction:
Teenager Morgan Lane Arnold was accused of plotting to kill her father, and his fiancée. She petitioned to be tried in juvenile court (Collins, 2014).
A Georgia teenager charged for fatally shooting a 13 month old baby is requesting for his case to be herd in juvenile court in order to a murder conviction(Bynum, 2014).
Transfer or no Transfer?
In Kent v. United States the Supreme Court instructs juvenile court judges to waive juveniles to adult court after “full investigation” (Atkinson, 1967). In Case One, Morgan planned with her boyfriend to kill her father. She committed this act deliberately. She is trying to use the guilty, but insane plea to avoid transfer to adult court. The judge denied the request as she was deemed competent to stand trial after a mental evaluation. After full investigation, the findings proved that Morgan knew what she was doing, and did not mention incompetency until after she realized she would be waived to criminal court. I agree with the judge’s decision to waive this case into adult court. In the Case Two, the accused was an eye witness. The judge requested a full mental evaluation. It was revealed that there was no premeditation in his action, as he met the shooter the morning of the shooting. Georgia law prohibits juvenile courts from hearing murder cases. The findings in Kent vs U.S. would support the offender’s trial to be heard in juvenile court, and no need for waiver to criminal court after a full investigation.
Transfer or waiver is not an intended function of the juvenile courts as it does not promote rehabilitation. It promotes a high level of recidivism amount youth offenders equal to adult offenders. There are times when transfer is appropriate, and the judge is justified in permitting the waiver (“Juvenile Transfer to Criminal Court, n.d.”)
- Atkinson, K.L (1967). Constitutional Rights of Juveniles: Gault and Its Application. William and
Mary Law Review, Vol (9), 2, p. 491-508. Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2971&context=wmlr
- Butts, J. A. & Mitchell, O. (2000).Brick by Brick: Dismantling the Border
Between Juvenile and Adult Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/criminal_justice2000/vol_2/02f2.pdf
- Bynum, R. (2014. Teen Charged In Ga. Baby Killing Wants To Be Tried As Juvenile.
Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/dominique-lang_n_4944567.html
- Collins, D. (2014). Judge to decide on moving teen’s murder case to juvenile court
Morgan Lane Arnold accused of plotting to kill her father, Dennis Lane. Retrieved from http://www.wbaltv.com/news/hearing-continues-to-move-teens-murder-case-to-juvenile-court/27336628
- Juvenile Transfer to Criminal Court. Retrieved from
- Youth in the Justice System: An Overview. Retrieved from http://jlc.org/news-room/media-resources/youth-justice-system-overview