A Comparative Review of the Texas and Tennessee Juvenile Courts

This paper aims to bring forth the similarities and differences shared by the Juvenile Justice systems of Texas and Tennessee respectively. The author shall first lay down the primary features of Texan Juvenile courts, followed by that of Tennessee’s. This is in order to clearly establish the common points the two judicial systems have and at the same time properly highlight the significant divergence of the two states’ juvenile handling. The primary task of doing a comparison is done in the concluding section. Texas Juvenile Court

Before any case is proceeds under the juvenile court it is first necessary to establish the definition of a ‘juvenile’ as determined by the Texas Family Code and subsequently the ‘Juvenile Justice Code. ’ The state laws defines the latter as a person who is at least ten years of age and/or under seventeen years of age. Children with indications of engaging in possible delinquent acts and shows a need for early supervision does not fall under the Juvenile court jurisdiction of Texas. Rather, these cases are handled by the Department of Protection and Regulatory Services.

It is noteworthy that alleged juveniles may be tried by law as an adult by the age of fourteen. However, juveniles who are tried for criminal or felony cases as such cannot receive a death penalty punishment. A juvenile court in Texas can be any district court, county court, or county court at law. The jurisdiction of the latter is stated by Chapter XII: Juvenile law of the ‘district clerk manual 2006 of Texas’ as limited to: … juvenile courts have original jurisdiction over all alleged offenders under the age of 18.

However; there are four situations in which a criminal court, not a juvenile court, has jurisdiction even though the offender is fewer than 18: perjury, traffic violations, violation of statutes or ordinances punishable by fines only, and alcohol violations. (p. 1-2) Tennessee Juvenile Courts Juvenile courts in Tennessee were established and are governed by the Juvenile Courts Law. A youth qualifies to be tried in such a court if he/she is seventeen years of age or younger. It may enforce its orders in any way in which a court of equity may enforce its orders and decrees, including by imprisonment and by fine for contempt.

The jurisdiction of juvenile courts in Tennessee hears cases such as: A. ) Delinquency referrals – a considered adult crime perpetrated by a minor that under normal circumstances would be tried in criminal law. B. ) Neglect and Dependency Cases C. ) Parentage issues (i. e. child custody, visitation and child support) D. ) Status offenses (i. e. runaway, truancy, unruly or ungovernable behavior and violation of curfew). (Juvenile Court Statistics TN, 1998) Similarities and Differences of TX and TN Juvenile Courts

It is quite clear that there Texas and Tennessee both adhere to the need of having a justice system that is suitable in dealing with cases of troubled youth. As we have seen both states addresses the differences in dealing with minors compared to their adults citizens and aims to provide ample rehabilitation and supervision for such children. Both Texas and Tennessee uphold the statute of waiving jurisdiction over juveniles who are charged with criminal offenses that can be deemed as heinous or intentional acts of violence against life, liberty, and property in general.

The manner in which both courts conduct its proceedings is in the best interest of the youth in question and deals with the cases of the concerned in as much discretion as possible. Both states aside from the juvenile justice courts they have coordinate with other departments and services that aim at providing aid to delinquent youths. It may be said that the presence of these kinds of courts holds true for most if not all states not limited to the two. Such existence is anchored on the fact that states recognize the need to care and foster for the youth and guide those who are in need of support.

There is a slight difference however in the definition of the term ‘juvenile’ in the two states. In a sense it can be said that Texas holds a higher level of accountability for violation of the law. Aside from this the age at which a child is deemed to be subject to a juvenile courts differ in limits. Tennessee sets the bar solely at the age of seventeen while Texas has a minimum and maximum age qualification. Most important perhaps in the difference of the two is the scope of jurisdiction. It is the case that Texas Juvenile System deals narrowly with issues of delinquency.

On the other hand, Tennessee has a broader extent of duties and responsibility. The judge for the latter not only serves to give punishment and rehabilitative options for juvenile youths but also deals with issues that deal with parenting, custody, non-parental consents, etc. Texas is far more concerned it seems in disabling delinquent conduct and making sure that kids who are involved in trouble and set up right. Tennessee aside from this task, acts as an enabler. It aims to safeguard children in general and not only those who are delinquents.

It aims to provide a holistic support system for the state’s youth making sure that they are provided with the rights and privileges they duly deserve. In terms of actual procedure, both have certain divisions and set of terminologies that makes the Juvenile Justice system different from criminal court. There is also due consideration to the role parents and the community play in the case of Tennessee and Texas and aside from holding culpable the minor, they also try to get the adults concerned involve in the rehabilitation process.

Tennessee in particular doesn’t just hold the youth’s responsibilities but also reminds adults of their obligations to their children.


Glossary of Terms. Juvenile Courts Statistics, TX. (1995). Last Updated: May 1998 Retrieved October 22, 2007 from http://ojjdp. ncjrs. org/PUBS/juvctstats/glossary. html. Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth (2001). Juvenile Court in Tennessee. (2001). p. 1-2 Chapter XIII: Juvenile Law. District Clerk Manual-Texas . (June, 2006) Client Page: Juvenile Law and Procedures (2004). Texas Bar Journal, Vol. 69 No. 6