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Competence of Juveniles in Legal Proceedings Class 6.

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Presentation on theme: "Competence of Juveniles in Legal Proceedings Class 6."— Presentation transcript:

1 Competence of Juveniles in Legal Proceedings Class 6

2 CASE OF THE DAY Ramos v Town of Vernon Facts –Juvenile curfew imposed for persons under 18 –District Court affirmed, 2 nd Circuit overturned ordinance –Statute designed not just to reduce juvenile crime but to promote parental responsibility Juveniles’ rights not at issue, but state interference with parental role presents a conflict

3 “Juvenile curfews have existed throughout our Nation's history, and we do not question the Town of Vernon's authority to have such an ordinance under some circumstances. …. The constitutionality of a curfew is determined by balancing the recognized interests the state has in protecting children and fighting crime against the constitutional right of all citizens, including juveniles, to move about freely. Here, Vernon's curfew interferes with juveniles' freedom of movement, that is, their right to walk the streets, move about at will, meet in public with friends, and leave their houses when they please. This right to free movement is a vital component of life in an open society, both for juveniles and adults.”

4 Adjudicative Competence Assistance – the capacity to provide relevant information Reasoning – understanding nature of the legal proceeding and processing information about it Appreciation – apply relevant information in a way that is reasonable and rationale Decisional Competence – capacity to make important decisions such as confession or waiver of rights

5 Competence Applications Waive counsel Waive Miranda rights Assist counsel Accurate reconstruction of events

6 Legal Standards A defendant is competent to stand trial if he "has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding [and if] he has a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against him." Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 402, 80 S. Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960)

7 “ A 14-year old boy, no matter how sophisticated, …. is not equal to the police in knowledge and understanding…and is unable to know how to protect his own interests or how to get the benefit of his constitutional rights…A lawyer or adult relative or friend could have given the petitioner the protection which own immaturity could not…Without some adult protection, …a 14-year old boy would not be able to know...such constitutional rights as he had.” Gallegos v Colorado, 370 U.S.49, 82 S. Ct (1962)

8 “Age 15 is a tender and difficult age for a boy….a lad of tender years is no match for the police in such a contest…he needs counsel and support if he is not to become the victim first of fear, then of panic.” Haley v Ohio, 332 U.S. 596 (1948)

9 Evaluation should meet “totality of circumstances” test, including: age, experience, education, background, and intelligence, and whether he has the capacity to understand the warnings given him, the nature of his Fifth Amendment rights, and the consequences of those rights.” Fare v Michael C., 442 US 707 (1979)

10 States’ Competency Standards Juvenile standard (20) Adult applies to Juveniles (15) Adult standard (16)

11 What is the Standard? Current standard is “Dusky” + decisional competence Some states (e.g., FL) include immaturity in their articulation of standards (but fail to define immaturity) 34 States and DC have held that juveniles have a due process right to a competency determination

12 What Information Should a Competency Evaluation Contain? Fifteen states provide guidelines typically requiring the following: – Opinion as to competency – Conditions causing incompetency – Prognosis – Recommended treatment – Criminal responsibility (3)

13 Who Has the Burden? Not Specified State (4) Defendant (4) Party that raises the issue (6)

14 What Standard of Proof Applies? Not Specified Preponderance of the Evidence Clear Preponderance Greater Weight of the Evidence

15 Dismiss with prejudice Dismiss without prejudice Civil commitment Dependency adjudication [GA] Child in need of services petition (AR, MN, VA) What Happens When There is a Finding of Incompetency?

16 Struggling with “Immaturity” In re J.M. (Vermont, 2001) –“…evaluation of a juvenile’s competency is to be made with regard to juvenile norms” In the matter of Carey (Michigan, 2000) –“…competency evaluations should be made in light of juvenile, rather than adult, norms” Golden v. State (Arkansas, 2000) –“…age appropriate capacity standard to apply to juveniles, which is different from that of adults”

17 In re Charles B. (Arizona, 1999) In re Charles B. (Arizona, 1999) (“although the juvenile…has no mental disorder or disability, he fits the description of “incompetent”… because he lacks a present ability to consult with his attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, and he does not have a rational and factual understanding of the proceeding against him”)

18 False Confessions Susceptibility to suggestion Susceptibility to threat from authority figures Desire to please authority figure, leading to distorted or inaccurate information Loss of temporal perspective Legal decision making capacity to waive rights

19 Current Research Thomas Grisso et al., “Juveniles’ Competence to Stand Trial: A Comparison of Adolescents’ and Adults’ Capacities as Trial Defendants,” Law & Human Behavior, 2003

20 Design – Abilities associated with adjudicative competence were assessed among 927 adolescents in juvenile detention facilities and community settings. Adolescents’ abilities were compared to those of 466 young adults in jails and in the community. Method – vignettes

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28 What Age, What Standard? How best to make law?


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