The juvenile justice system in the United States has undergone some changes in the past sixty years. Up until 1960’s, American juveniles had little or no rights in the detention and trial processes, and more often, judges were allowed to solely decide whatever verdict they deemed fit. However, from 1967 when the first reforms in the juvenile justice system were instituted up to now, juveniles have continued to enjoy the same or more rights than their adult counterparts (Conward, 1998).
Nevertheless, there are numerous differences between juvenile and adult offenders from the time of arrest up to the time of trial and sentencing. This paper examines the differences in rights between juvenile offenders and adult offenders at the time of arrest. Usually when an adult offender is arrested, he or she is locked up in a jail cell to wait whether he or she can be released on bail or on own recognizance. A juvenile on the other hand, is never detained together with adults.
The law enforcement agencies have four options when the child is locked up in a temporary custody; the child can either be released with a mere warning, taken to a private or public juvenile facility, given a written notice to seek counseling before a community agency or taken to a probation officer (California Judges Association, 1979). While cases involving minors are never bailed, the juveniles have extreme privileges and rights more than adult offenders.
The minor offenders are allowed to make a maximum of two phone calls when taken to a probation officer. One is to alert his or her parent or guardian and any other responsible relative or employer. The second one should go to an attorney. The law permits the child to make these calls at the expense of the public so long as the calls are local and are made in a public office or in the presence of a public employee (Feld, 1995).
While an adult who invites a third party in his or her meeting with an attorney would waive his or her right to attorney/client privilege, a juvenile is permitted to have a parent or a guardian during their meetings with attorney without their attorney/client privilege being waived (Conward, 1998). The first task of the attorney would be to put strong case why the minor should be released as the case is being looked into. Juvenile Rights and Justice
Juveniles may have numerous extended rights at the time of arrest than adult offenders; however, the juvenile justice system is a controversial one when it comes to attaining both social and criminal justice. On one hand the juvenile system is quite lenient with the minor offenders. The law enforcement agencies have all the discretion on what to do with a minor offender. Most of the options the police have are too lenient to ensure that justice is achieved. If the offender is released and warned or sent to a community agency for counseling, what happens to the victim?
In the spirit of attaining justice, every offender must go through the due process to ensure that justice is not only achieved for the offender but also the victim. On the other hand, the juvenile system lacks any procedural protections to the offender. It may seem that it is in the best interest of the offender, when he or she is ordered to be locked up in a juvenile jail. But this is negated by the fact that the law requires a police officer to arrest without witnessing the alleged offence being committed, detained without bail, no preliminary hearing and with no promise of a jury trial (Feld, 1995).
Conclusion It would be self-defeating for any minor offender to think that the juvenile rights are meant to serve his or her interest. Compared to adult rights, the juvenile rights may be considered fewer and less protective in the face of attaining social and criminal justice to both parties involved. More reforms are needed in the juvenile justice system in order to ensure justice is achieved for both victims and offenders.