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Similarities And Differences In Juvenile And Adult Justice Systems

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Similarities and Differences in Juvenile and Adult Justice Systems

When a juvenile is arrested and charged with committing a crime there are many different factors that will come in to play during the course of his arrest, trial, conviction, sentencing, and rehabilitation process. In the past we tried all criminals as adults. There was no distinction made between adult and child. Over the years we have come to realize the need to separate these two groups, as they are two distinctly different populations with very different physical and psychological needs. The separation of adult and juvenile courts finally allowed us to make separate and distinct rules for each population. Now it seems like once again the lines between the two populations are becoming blurred. With juveniles committing more and more serious and violent crimes and being sentenced and tried in adult courts it becomes difficult again for us to distinguish between these two populations. Through the course of this paper I will compare and contrast the two court systems from the process of arrest and trial to sentencing and attempt to rehabilitate.

The separation between adult and juvenile begins at the time of arrest. At the time of arrest, police must make a decision whether to release the juvenile offender or make a referral to the juvenile court. "Cases involving serious crimes against property or persons are often referred to court. Less serious cases, such as disputes between juveniles, petty shoplifting, runaways, and assaults of minors, are often diverted from court action" (Siegel 401). In most states the policies and procedures of arrest are the same for both adults and juveniles. However, police generally have more authority to control youthful behavior than adult behavior. This broadened authority allows the police to act "in place of the parent" and place the juvenile into a protective form of custody rather than a punitive form of detention. Once arrested, juveniles still retain their Fourth and Fifth amendment rights, just as an adult would. Under the fourth amendment they are protected from unreasonable search and seizures, just as any other adult would be. Likewise they are also protected under the Miranda rights, just as an adult would be. There has been some debate over whether juveniles have the right to waive their Miranda rights without the presence of an attorney or a guardian. While most courts do allow juveniles to waive their own Miranda rights some mitigating factors include the age of the offender, the child's education, the child's knowledge of the charge, and whether or not the child has been allowed to consult with family and friends (Siegel 403).

Once the decision has been made to press formal charges against the juvenile offender, a decision must be made either to release the child into the custody of parents or to detain the child in the temporary care of the state. "Nationally, about 70 percent of all states have detention centers administered at the county level; about 34 percent have state-level facilities, 16 percent have court-administered facilities, and 11 percent contract with private vendors to operate facilities" (Siegel 427). Once an adult offender is arrested, they are either issued a citation and a notice to appear in court, or they are taken to jail. Adult offenders usually remain in custody until they can post bail. Juvenile offenders are typically released into the custody of their parents or guardians unless they are deemed a threat to themselves or society, or a risk for a runaway.

Trial and pre-trial processes for juveniles also differs greatly from that of adults. While adults are assured the right to reasonable bail in non-capital cases, most states refuse juveniles the right to bail. Furthermore, the state has the right to detain dangerous youths until their trial in what is known as preventive detention. Once a petition is filed against an adult they usually must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Adults also have the option to involve themselves in plea bargaining in which they plead guilty to a reduced sentence and possibly with a sentence recommendation from the prosecutor. Juvenile codes often do not require juveniles to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Instead, in an initial hearing the offender usually admits or denies the facts of the petition. If the juvenile admits to the facts of the petition the court determines an appropriate sentence. If the juvenile denies the facts of the petition the case will precede to trial. Plea bargaining is typically not regarded in juvenile courts since they usually do not involve lengthy trials or long sentences. Early in the proceedings the court also has the power to transfer a juvenile offender from the juvenile court to the adult criminal court, known as the transfer process. Generally, offenders under the age of 16 are tried in juvenile court and not in an adult criminal court. However, virtually all states have statues that allow the transfer of juvenile offenders to adult court. There are three ways in which juveniles can be tried as adults in criminal courts: "1) Concurrent Jurisdiction, the prosecutor has the discretion of filing charges for certain offenses in either juvenile or criminal court 2) Statutory exclusion policies, certain offenses are automatically excluded from juvenile court 3) Judicial waiver, in the waiver of juvenile cases to criminal court, a hearing is held before a juvenile court judge, who then decides whether jurisdiction should be waived and the case transferred to criminal court" (Siegel 436-437). If the case cannot be settled in pretrial proceedings, the case will precede to trial at which the juvenile is assured due process, just as an adult is. Criminal proceedings are usually applied in juvenile court just as they are in a criminal court. There is one exception however, and that is that juveniles are not entitled to a jury by peers as in a criminal court (Siegel 441). "Once the adjudicatory hearing has been completed, the court is normally required to enter a judgment or finding against the child" (Siegel 442). They may either find the child delinquent, adjudging the child to be ward of the court, or suspend the judgment.

Disposition is the sentencing step of the juvenile process. Typically juvenile sentences are much shorter than adult sentences and they are aimed at rehabilitation. The aim of the court is what would be in the best interest of the child, while protecting society. Before the juvenile is sentenced the probation department usually completes what is known as a predisposition report. This is used at a tool for focusing on what treatment programs and sentencing options will be best for the offender. Often family members, school official, and statements from the



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