Who would be included in a juvenile case and who is excluded? What are the criteria?
The original philosophy behind the creation of the Juvenile Justice system focused on rehabilitation. Is this still the primary goal?
The state has the right to intervene in the life of a child and act as a parent. This right is known as Parens Patriae or “parent of the country”.
3 Groups of Juveniles 1)Delinquent Offenders have committed acts that would be considered crimes if they were done by an adult. These would be things like vandalism or acts of violence.
2)Status Offenders have committed an act that is a crime simply because of the person’s status as juvenile. These would be acts such as possession of alcohol, cigarettes, curfew violation, skipping school, running away etc.
3)Neglected or Abused children require the courts protection to ensure their safety and welfare.
Some people favor Parental Responsibility Laws that would hold parents accountable for some crimes committed by their children. Most states can charge a parent with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor if it can be proven that the adult facilitated the behavior (providing a place for the criminal behavior to take place, providing transportation etc.
Most states say that a juvenile is under the age of 18. States can lower the age to 17 or even 16 if it wants to. The Age of Majority is the age in which a person becomes an adult in the eyes of the law.
Transfer Hearing may be held to determine if the person under the age of 18 should be transferred to the adult criminal court system. At a transfer hearing, the judge must make the determination based upon 1) the past record 2) the seriousness of the event 3) the likelihood of rehabilitation before the age of majority has been reached.
It has become fairly easy to transfer to adult court due to the “Get Tough” attitude about crime.
Status Offenses It is hard to justify incarceration for a behavior that would not be considered a crime when the juvenile gets older. Taking away their freedom might be in order to protect them from harm. Many of these offenders are emotionally troubled. It is estimated that 13 million youths are on the street each day and 75% are runaway girls.
Person In Need of Supervision Most states require proof that the child is habitually unruly. If it can be shown that this behavior exists, the court can file a PINS petition or a Person In Need of Supervision.
Juvenile Justice Juveniles are granted most of the same rights as adults. They have: 1)The right to notification of the charges against them 2)The right to an attorney 3)The right to confront and cross examine a witness 4)The right to remain silent In 1974 status offenders were separated from the adult criminal population. This was the result of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974.
Procedures 1)During Intake the Court Official or Social Worker decide if a referral to juvenile court should be made. This decision is based on the seriousness of the offense, the past history, and the family circumstances.
2)During the Initial Hearing the state must generally prove: A) that an offense was committed and B) there is reasonable cause to believe the accused committed it. a. In order to detain the juvenile, the state must show that the juvenile is a danger to themselves or others, their past record warrants detention, or that they are a flight risk. This is called Preventative Detention. b.The Juvenile does not have the right to bail.
Adjudicatory Hearing 3)The Adjudicatory Hearing is the trial in juvenile court. This is usually closed to the public and usually does not have a jury. Juveniles do not have a Constitutional Right to a jury although some states provide for a jury trial.
Dispositional Hearing 4)At the Dispositional Hearing the judge decides upon the sentence or disposition (what the state should do with) the offender should receive.
a.The disposition is based on the Pretence Report. This report is prepared by the probation department and is based on an investigation of the juvenile’s social, psychological, family, and school background. b.Courts are supposed to provide an individual plan for the treatment or rehabilitation of the individual. c.The needs of the individual have to be weighed against the needs of the society. d.Possible outcomes include jail, community treatment programs, placement in a group home, or probation (the most common disposition).
Probation 5) Conditions can be placed on Probation such as holding a job, going to school, curfew, drug testing, avoiding certain persons or groups, and meeting with a probation officer on a regular basis.
6)Disposition to a state institution can be for any length of time from 1-3 years for any offense. It lasts until the offender reaches the Age of Majority (adulthood) and may continue until the juvenile is 21.
7)Postdisposition juveniles usually have the right to appeal decisions. Once released they may be placed in Aftercare. Aftercare is the equivalent of parole.
Having a record A delinquent juvenile does not have a criminal record. They are delinquent. Being convicted of a crime can only happen in adult court. Having a record can be accessed by the public through the freedom of information act. This record can keep you from getting a job. Some states allow your record to be Expunged or wiped clean if the person makes the official request to do so. If this happens, there will no longer be any public record.
In 1983, when he was fifteen years old, William Wayne Thompson had a brother-in-law named Charles Keene. Keene was married to Thompson's sister, Vicki, whom Keene beat and abused. Thompson decided to end his sister's suffering. On the night of January 22, 1983, Thompson left his mother's house with his half-brother and two friends to kill Charles Keene. In the early morning hours of January 23, a neighbor named Malcom "Possum" Brown was awakened by the sound of a gunshot on his porch. Someone pounded on Brown's door shouting, "Possum, open the door, let me in. They're going to kill me." Brown called the police and then opened the door to see Keene being beaten by four men. Before the police arrived, the four men took Keene away in a car. Thompson and his friends shot Keene twice, cut his throat, chest, and stomach, broke one of his legs, chained him to a concrete block, and threw him into the Washita River. One of Thompson's friends said Thompson cut Keene "so the fish could eat his body." Authorities did not find Keene's body until almost four weeks after the murder.
As most states do, Oklahoma had a juvenile justice system. The system's goal was to reform childhood criminals in juvenile justice centers rather than punish them in prisons. Oklahoma, however, allowed childhood murderers to be tried and punished as adults if they understood what they were doing and had no hope for reform.
Prior to the murder, Thompson had been arrested four times for assault and battery and once for attempted burglary. Mary Robinson, who worked for the juvenile justice system, said the counseling Thompson received in the juvenile justice system did not improve his behavior. The court decided Thompson understood the severity of murder and could not be reformed by the juvenile justice system. Thompson was tried as an adult, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death.
Thompson appealed his conviction and sentence. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents the federal government from using "cruel and unusual punishment." States, including Oklahoma, must obey the Eighth Amendment under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. During his appeals, Thompson argued that executing him for a crime he committed when he was fifteen years old would be cruel and unusual.
With a 5–3 decision, the Supreme Court reversed Thompson's death sentence. Writing for the Court, Justice John Paul Stevens said executing people for childhood crimes is cruel and unusual punishment. In short, the Eighth Amendment forbids executing people for crimes they commit when under sixteen years old. Justice Stevens said the Constitution does not explain what it means by "cruel and unusual punishment." Instead, the Supreme Court must decide based on what American society thinks is cruel and unusual. To do this, the Court reviewed laws affecting juveniles.
In the United States at the time, eighteen states set sixteen as the minimum age for the death penalty. In most of the fifty states, people under sixteen could not vote, sit on a jury, marry, buy alcohol or cigarettes, drive, or gamble. Stevens said those laws meant people under sixteen lack the intelligence, experience, and education to make adult decisions. If children cannot make adult decisions, it is cruel and unusual to punish them as adults, especially when the punishment is death.
Three justices dissented, which means they disagreed with the Court's decision. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion. Scalia said the Eighth Amendment does not require a strict rule that nobody can be executed for crimes committed under sixteen. Scalia pointed out that when the United States adopted the Eighth Amendment, children could be executed for crimes committed at age fourteen. Scalia said courts should be able to decide each case separately. The question is whether a childhood murderer has the ability to understand and control his conduct like an adult. If so, he should be punished like an adult. Scalia said the Court's decision would allow hardened criminals who are just one day short of sixteen to escape severe punishment for the most severe crimes. In a society that says people should pay for murder with their lives, that result may be cruel and unusual.