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Juvenile Courts

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Juvenile and adult courts serve the same purpose: to provide justice to those entering their facilities. The difference and similarities between the two programs are present to best serve those in the system. Although there are critics of the juvenile justice who believe its abolishment would be best, research indicates that juveniles are best served in a legal system dedicated to their specific needs.

The first juvenile court was formed in Chicago in 1899. Prior to that time children were considered to be extensions of their parents and without their own rights. There were few laws in place to protect children or to ensure their safety. Children who committed criminal acts were tried in adult courts and punished in the same way. Following the formation of juvenile court and the establishment of laws to protect children from abuse, long working hours, neglect and the creation of programs to ensure their safety the treatment of juvenile offenders changed to an environment which focused on rehabilitation and getting juvenile offenders the help needed to avoid future criminal activities.

One of the main differences in the juvenile and adult courts is the terminology. In juvenile court, a defendant’s action is termed an “act of delinquency” whereas an adult defendant must answer for their “crime”. The labeling of a child as a criminal is deemed harsh and unfair so they are referred to as “delinquents” instead of “criminals”.

Another difference is the background that is considered during a court proceeding involving a juvenile during which factors regarding their family life, emotional issues and hardships that they may have endured. Adult defendants rarely receive consideration for those factors during their court proceedings. Age and the level of seriousness of the criminal act are considered when determining the action taken against the juvenile defendant; neither is considered for the adult defendant.

The focus of the courts systems is different: juvenile courts focus on the rehabilitation of the offender whereas adult courts focus on the illegal behavior and appropriate punishment. There is intent to protect the children in the juvenile court system which is not carried over to the adult defendant. The intent of the adult legal system is typically focused on punishment for the crime committed whereas the juvenile courts are focused on rehabilitation and getting the help needed for the juvenile offender to lead a productive life.

The arrest process is different for a juvenile then it is for an adult. An adult is indicted of a crime and a juvenile has a petition filed against them. Juvenile court will determine whether the petition is agreeable or denied. An adult defendant is required to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest but a juvenile defendant is not. Once a petition is accepted by the juvenile court the judge will decide if the youth will be held in a juvenile detention facility whereas adult defendants are incarcerated. Following this due process, adults face a trial and juvenile defendants face adjudication, which is a fact finding hearing.

The format of the trial process differs between juvenile and adult courts. The juvenile court process continues after adjudication with a dispositional hearing being held. For the adult defendant only a conviction follows a trial and then sentencing. The sentence for a juvenile offender might include detainment in a juvenile detention facility whereas the adult offender faces prison, parole, electronic monitoring or restitution.

The juvenile and adult courts share several components. Similarities



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