This is in accord with the objective of the juvenile justice system that minor offenders should not be branded as criminals despite their wrongdoings. There is a belief that even if the minor had participation in the commission of an infraction, he should be relieved of the stigma attached to criminals due to his tender age. Basically, the differences between juvenile courts and regular courts are based on the differences between the offenses committed by minors and persons already of age.
So also, basic differences as to physical, mental and emotional factors existing between an adult and a minor is taken into account. In addition to those mentioned above, the following are said to be other differences between the features of the juvenile courts and regular courts and the procedure that each court follows, Juveniles are not prosecuted for committing crimes, but rather delinquent acts. When the delinquent acts are very serious, they may be considered crimes and the juvenile may be tried in the adult system.
Juveniles don’t have a right to a public trial by jury. For a juvenile charged with a crime, the trial portion of the case involves a judge hearing evidence and ruling on whether or not the minor is delinquent. This is called an adjudication hearing. Once the juvenile has been deemed delinquent, the court will determine what action should be taken. This stage differs from the adult system in the purpose of the action. In the adult system, the goal is to punish.
In the juvenile system, on the other hand, the goal is to rehabilitate and serve the minor’s best interest. Juvenile courts are often more informal than those for adults. For example, rules about the admissibility of evidence may be more lenient (“Juvenile vs. Adult Criminal System”). In line with the objective that minor offenders should not be considered as criminals, the procedure followed in handling cases involving minors are said to be more lenient than that followed in cases involving adults.
Normally, cases involving minors are not tried before the jury. The case is decided by the judge after personally examining the evidence and the witnesses presented before him. This procedure is simpler and more expedient. So also, if it is determined that the case of the minor will be better handled by other agencies, the court may order a referral instead of conducting a full-blown trial. This is considered as helpful to the minor offender because proper treatment and rehabilitation is given him without the necessity of exposing him to the rigors of trial.
It is important to note that the ultimate goal of the juvenile courts is different. Despite the minor offender’s commission of an offense, he is not sought to be punished by the court. After the court decides that indeed the minor has committed the infraction, he is rehabilitated or reformed and not punished. As mentioned in an article, “Dispositions typically involve a package of sanctions or a treatment plan designed to both hold the juvenile accountable and to address the child’s underlying problems” (“Juvenile”).
This is absolutely different from the decisions rendered in regular courts where the accused, if found guilty, is punished by sending him to jail to serve his sentence. It is viewed that due to the young age of the offender, he must not be punished like an adult offender but rather he should be reformed in order for him to refrain from making wrongdoings in the future. Hence, under the juvenile justice system, the accountability of the minor for his acts is not dispensed with, and at the same time, his mental and emotional development and growth is considered and protected.
The existence of juvenile courts is beneficial to youth offenders because their tender age is taken into consideration in the disposition of their cases. They are spared from the severe treatment that adult offenders are normally given. So also, despite a finding of their guilt, minor offenders are not ordered to serve sentence inside a penitentiary where they would have to deal with older prisoners. This would definitely affect the character and mental growth of the child. There is possibility that if the minor offender is placed in a penitentiary, he will grow up rebellious or violent.
The fact that reformation or correction of the youth is the primordial concern of the juvenile justice system is truly beneficial to youth offenders thus, Following adjudication, a delinquency case is scheduled for a disposition hearing. Case dispositions include out-of-home placements (usually within a residential facility), probation, release from court authority, and “other dispositions that may require the performance of community service work or the payment of restitution and fines (“Juvenile”).
Because of this, the offender is given the chance to reflect on his wrongdoings through the help of agencies, and hence, is able to change and become a renewed person without being branded as a criminal. So also, the simplicity and expediency of the proceedings had before juvenile courts are of advantage to youth offenders because they do not have to bear with the rigors of trial in court. As proceedings involving minors are usually done in private, and sometimes without the presence of the jury, the minor concerned can be able to defend himself at ease.
He does not have to fear that he will be judged or be seen in a negative light by the public. This means that after the child has gone through the reformation process as ordered by the court, he can again lead a normal life without even having to look back at the wrongdoings that he committed in the past. This is beneficial to the minor offender because his development as a person is not hampered by having to attend hearings and defend himself before trial conducted publicly. It must be borne in mind, however, that the existence of juvenile courts has its own disadvantages.
Since the minor is treated with leniency, there is a possibility that the youth offender will not be able to understand the gravity of the wrong he has committed. Even if he is subsequently reformed, it is believed that it is still important to instill in the mind of the offender that the act he did was wrong and that the same bears a consequence. Until the minor offender is made to understand the wrongfulness of his actions, there is no assurance that he will not perform the same act in the future.