There are many similarities and differences between the adult and juvenile justice systems. Although juvenile crimes have increased in violence and intensity in the last decade, there is still enough difference between the two legal proceedings, and the behaviors themselves, to keep the systems separated. There is room for changes in each structure. However, we cannot treat/punish juvenile offenders the way we do adult offenders, and vice versa. This much we know. So we have to find a way to merge between the two. And, let’s face it; our juveniles are more important to us in the justice system. They are the group at they impressionable age that can be changed; altered into a life separated from crime, where as adults are much harder to transform and rehabilitate.
Some similarities between the two include the right to an attorney, the right to due process, the right against self-incrimination, the right to be notified of charges against them, and the prosecution must provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict them. They can plea bargain and appeal in much the same way as an adult on trial can. Should juveniles be afforded the same legal rights as an adult offender? Juveniles did not receive as many rights until the 1960’s, when juvenile crime increased, and trials became more formal.
Obviously, the juvenile courtroom has begun to mirror the adult form in many ways over the years, but only when the heinousness of the act allows it to do so. However, the majority of that is to ensure that juveniles are afforded as many constitutional rights as they should be to ensure justice is properly served from the courts, and to maintain their protection from unethical treatment. As juvenile crimes have become increasingly brutal over the years, it is important that if a juvenile commits
a big boy crime, and potentially faces a big boy sentence, they should be afforded big boy rights in the process. However, even for softer crimes they should be awarded these rights because all citizens should have a right to protection against what they are being charged for. The legal portion of the constitution is built on “innocent until proven guilty”. It establishes fairness and equality to the people.
As a contrast, there are many differences between the adult and juvenile justice system. These differences consist of the right to a jury, the right to post bail, leniency of evidence, different court proceedings, the right to a public trial, and rehabilitation efforts. As for the purpose of this paper, we will dissect the differences of the two systems. Many appeals have been filed under the notion that a right to a jury should be upheld for juvenile offenders. The courts have voted against this action time and time again. These appeals are made on the assumption that, as noted earlier, adult crimes should be tried as adult crimes.
However, the court rules on this matter while keeping the rehabilitation efforts of the juvenile courts in mind, as opposed to the more punitive measures. Their desire to see kids treated as kids are defined with their upholding of the law, and pushing rehabilitation to its max. But should rehabilitation be the prime focus when the act is of adult capacity; even in a child’s body? I do not think so. What are the percentages of rehabilitation success with adults for committed capital offenses? How are they going to differ when a child partakes in them? I think there is a level – a cutoff, where you cannot go back and be reformed. The courts belief is to never give up on a child – never. A true loving parent would probably never give up on their child, so I can see the argument from both sides.
In many cases a juvenile will be released back to a parent/guardian to await trial or juvenile court proceedings. This takes the place of the adult bail system. Due to the fact that the juvenile court system is much more informal than the adult, the admissibility of evidence is considerably more lenient. The juvenile courts procedures and evidence rules make it easier to win convictions in juvenile court as opposed to an adult courtroom. In fact, many prosecutors push to try more juvenile cases in juvenile court, regardless of seriousness of crime, due to this fact. It makes their jobs easier, and they feel they have a better shot without having to go up against a jury. This is not fair because some serious juvenile crimes deserve to be prosecuted in the adult justice system, leading to an adult sentence.
The main mission of the two court systems differ in that the juvenile justice system aims to rehabilitate, whereas the adult justice system intends to inflict punishment. These objectives continue to differentiate between the two. The juvenile justice system will use diversionary programs to send juveniles through scores of therapies, counseling, interventions, and treatments in hopes to reform them from their criminal behavior. This goal is derived from the “parens patriae” position the courts holds to act as legal guardian for a child who does not have proper supervision. The adult justice system initiates punishment in their sentencing. The goal is to inflict suffering and pain, as well as separation from the general population, as retribution for the criminal act.
I believe that if we can keep the lines that separate these two clear, they can co-exist as two independent systems. There is one muddy section. We need to try all juveniles, convicted of a capital offense, as adults. This will eliminate prosecutors from using the juvenile courts to prosecute serious crimes of juveniles, thus trying the case in the adult system, and getting a more appropriate sentence for a capital offense.
I believe that there are no effective rehabilitation efforts for murder. When a juvenile commits murder knowingly, there is no level of reformation aspirations, and they become considered an adult because of the severity of their crime. To me, this is where the two systems begin to get confused. The overall mission has not changed. The crimes associated with juveniles today have made it tougher to keep them separated.
La Corte, R. (2008). Juveniles charged with violent crime have no right to a jury trial, state supreme court rules.
Retrieved from http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2004295473_webjuveniles20m.html
Males, M. (2009). Another troubling juvenile court case.
Retrieved from http://www.cjcj.org/post/juvenile/justice/another/troubling/juvenile/court/case/0
Michon, K. (2012). Constitutional rights in juvenile cases.