The Juvenile Justice System US

The development of the Juvenile Justice System has progressively changed throughout history. This is due primarily because a juvenile differs from an adult. Therefore, a juvenile who has committed a criminal act, should thusly be treated differently. It is because of this, separate courts, detentions facilities, rules, procedures and laws have been created for the juvenile with the sole intent of protecting the welfare and rehabilitation of them as well as protection of the public. An arrest of a child, or juvenile, can be a very complex process and can cause a huge strain upon the child as well as the parents.

The juvenile system operates somewhat differently from an adult justice system. Unlike an adult, a juvenile is not entitled to a jury trial nor is the child given the option of being released on bail. Instead, the minor could be released to their parents or guardians if the crime is not serious while the case is pending. However if the case is of a serious or violent nature or felony, and /or if the juvenile has had a previous conviction in the past, then the District Attorney's office and the Court may attempt to keep the juvenile in custody while the case is pending.

Within this paper, I will present material showing how the court system in a juvenile case proceeds from the crime occurring to the final outcome. The scenario:  A twelve year old juvenile was caught in the act of sexually assaulting a fourteen year old female acquaintance by the victim’s sixteen year old brother who observed the juveniles in the act and notified the police. In addition to sexually assaulting the victim, the juvenile had beaten her with the heel of a shoe that was nearby. The victim was almost unconscious when the police arrived.

The police arrested and detained the juvenile and filed charges for aggravated assault of a child and possession of a controlled substance. Juvenile System     3 The police are the first in the line of the justice system, and because of this, they are able to make choices that are or will be beneficial for the juvenile and the community. The police have a few options here; however they have chosen the most aggressive of the choices due to the severity of the crime. (1) They have arrested the juvenile and detained him.

Although what appears to be a major case of events here, it is really hard to tell at this point if this type of action was warranted. The juvenile was not a potential danger to the community therefore it is possible that he could have been given a citation and ensures that he and his parent(s) saw a probation officer at the juvenile centre. (2) After the police have obtained all the pertinent information, that being from the victim, the victim’s brother the juveniles parent’s/parent and past records is able then to make the decision as to whether the juvenile will be processed, released or put into another youth program.

(3) In this case it was found out that the child was from a single parent home where the mother is at work in the evenings and that he has had prior violations for late curfew, truancy and attempted sexual battery. As well the juvenile was in possession of alcohol and an illegal substance. Here it has become obvious that detainment and charges are warranted. The juvenile is now detained at a Juvenile Probation Department. Here an intake officer (4) has the duty of decided if the case warrants a formal hearing an informal hearing allowing the juvenile to be released under supervision for six months or to dismiss the case.

(5)   To do this the officer must now review the facts surrounding the case to see if there is enough information to have the juvenile tried for the crimes. If there is an adequate amount of evidence the case will be heard, if not then it shall be dropped. Juvenile System     4 In the above scenario the brother walked in and witnessed the “event” happening. The boy and the girl are both minors and even with consent they are not old enough to make that decision. As well the girl was almost unconscious. If anything this should proceed on these charges.

The next stage in this process now is a “petition” is issued. This informs the judge of all allegations against the youth and requests that he “adjudicates” hears the case in a formal hearing. During an adjudicatory hearing (7) the testimony of witnesses and all the facts are heard. If the juvenile is found guilty by the judge a “disposition hearing” (8) Will be scheduled. It is during this time that the Probation Officer then must evaluate the youth and recommend a course of action. They take into account all pertinent information of the youth including a psychological exam and diagnostic tests.

(9)    This is done so that the juvenile is still given a fair chance and not just thrown into a cell and forgotten. During this time the prosecutor, probation officer and the juveniles lawyer (if he has one. If not one is appointed for him whether he can pay or not) (National Institute of Justice) will try to work out an arrangement that will be beneficial to the juvenile and the victims. In this case the defense could recommend drug rehabilitation, limited confinement, restitution and due to the fact that the juvenile’s home life is not the greatest he could recommend residential replacement.

Through this arrangement the youth can be monitored insuring he follows all the terms However the judge makes the final ruling on this matter and in this case he could make the juvenile a ward of the court. This lets the court decide or make the decisions. With this the Judge can decide how much control if any the parent will have over the minor. If the juvenile becomes the ward of the court. The judge can then order: - The youth sent home on a Probationary stipulation and supervision Juvenile System     5 •    He could have the juvenile sent to live with a relative •    Put the minor in a foster home

•    Send the juvenile to a Foster care, group home or institution •    Send him to a Detention Facility, Ranch or Boot camp if available Send the youth to a Youth Authority Center (With this the judge will set a Maximum amount of time) The Judge can set strict terms and conditions of probation and with this the minor would give up some rights. After the hearing there are a few things that can happen. If the juvenile is not happy with the outcome he can appeal, ask to set aside the court order or ask for the records to be sealed (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency).

In some cases where the crimes are extreme there is the possibility that the case could be moved to an adult court. The probation officer submits a report about the juvenile his passed record and if he feels adult court is justifiable. The judge takes all the evidence into effect and makes his decisions accordingly. Juvenile System      6 In the scenario we are told what had occurred through the eyes of a witness. That would be the “victim's” brother. According to him he came home from work and saw the “incident” occurring and immediately phoned the police.

The police immediately arrested the minor and detained him on the notion that it was he who was aggressor and the fourteen year old was the victim. Continuing into the scenario it appears that the minor was “interrogated” without a parent or guardian present. The police at this moment should have possibly taken the child home contacted a guardian and issued a citation for him to appear. Also informing the minor to stay away from the alleged victim. It is noted that the child has had prior problems in the past which could be due to the lack of parental supervision he has had at home.

Brought up before the court for an informal trial. Recommendations for drug rehabilitation for his use of drugs and alcohol and an anger management class might be beneficial. His past history might cause a Prosecutor or judge to take a longer look at his past but once again due to poor supervision this is probably a major contributing factor. A possible solution for all might be a Restitution program where all parties have the opportunity to work out an acceptable plan that directly addresses the harm caused by the act. Juvenile System    

Work Cited

  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention 1-8a http://www.ncjrs.org/