The Juvenile Court System Essay

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The Juvenile Court is the fulcrum around which rolls the judicial machinery for the treatment of juvenile offenders.  The court may counsel and dismiss a youthful offender or allow a discharge upon the offender submitting a bond to be of good behavior.  The court may also order the commission of the juvenile offender to the care of a relative or other responsible person or to an approved school for corrective education. Oftentimes, parents or guardians are ordered to carry out a bond to exercise proper care and guardianship. The court may issue an order of probation or payment of a fine, compensation or costs. Imprisonment may be ordered as a last resort if determined that the delinquent cannot be appropriately meted out in any other conceivable means.

            A state may allow youth offenders to be tried in adult courts for offenses which are serious as murder or rape.  There are ways by which a juvenile may be tried as an adult.

One is through a waiver where the juvenile court judge decides whether or not a juvenile case should be transferred to a criminal court. The most popular way is for the prosecution to decide if the juvenile delinquent is to be tried in an adult court or in the juvenile court. The last one is where some offenses are excluded by the state from prosecution in juvenile courts.

            A landmark case concerning juvenile due process is Kent v. United States, where a 14-year old defendant was charged for robbery and rape and interrogated for seven hours until finally admitting his guilt.  Several motions were filed by the defendant but were denied by the judge without a hearing.  The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals but the same was denied.  However, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, declaring that the accused has the right to the same due process accorded to adult offenders, such as the right to be assisted by counsel during custodial investigation and the right to access to evidence.  This case vaunted an extreme or rigorous effect on how a juvenile court dealt with a juvenile delinquent (l966).

In re Gault, which is another landmark case involving the rights of the juvenile offender to due process, Gault, aged 15 was arrested when a neighbor complained that Gault and his friend had called her  and made obscene remarks over the phone.  Without due process, the juvenile was committed to an industrial school until he reaches the age of 21.

At that time the Arizona Juvenile Code did not provide specified constitutional rights to the offenders. And under the Arizona law, Gault has no right to appeal. The Supreme Court held that a notice of hearing, informing the juvenile of the charges against him, the right to counsel, the right to confront witnesses and the right against self-incrimination accorded to adult offender must also be provided to the young offender; that the guarantees provided by the constitution do not distinguish a juvenile offender from adult offender (Palicz).

In Breed v. Jones, the respondent was only 17 years old when accused of committing acts while holding a gun.  If he was an adult the act was criminal.  The Juvenile Court held that he was guilty of a criminal offense and was again tried as an adult in California Superior Court.  The U.S. Supreme Court held that the proceeding was a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The respondent was first tried in the juvenile court as a juvenile and again at the superior court as an adult (l975).

These cases had strikingly ensued on the manner juvenile delinquents are treated.  The courts now had to afford the juvenile his rights under the constitution.  Legitimate transfer hearing must be provided and notice must be served at the right time to provide ample time for the juvenile and his family to prepare for the case.

            Status offenders are juveniles committing actions if committed by adults are not considered as felony or misdemeanor, such as running away from home, smoking,    alcoholism, truancy, and incorrigibility or beyond the control of the parents.  Parents are compelled to file petition to get services from the juvenile justice system as there is little or nothing in the community that provides services or support for status offenders. If a juvenile is adjudged as incorrigible, he is placed under probation which include counseling, psychiatric examination, parenting and assessment for medication. This process is to assist the child and the family in resolving the problem and improve the childs conduct.

For those who ran away from home, the court may order a family relative or friend to take custody of the child.  However, if there is no other option, the court may decide to put the child in jail for a short term.

Proceedings in the juvenile court are civil and not criminal and special terms are used for the stages in the proceedings.  There is no jury and hearings are informal, but the rules of evidence apply. In juvenile court the defendant is called respondent and the case commences by petition and not by indictment.  The juvenile may admit or deny the offense charge in the adjudicatory hearing; if the court finds the respondent dangerous, proceedings begin with a detention hearing.

Adjudication must take place within 30 days after the service of the petition.  If found that the child committed the acts, a disposition hearing is held.  Adjudication and disposition hearings are two separate proceedings.  In disposition hearing, the court determines whether the respondent needs treatment or rehabilitation and whether he is delinquent. The court may order the services of care providers such as the Department of Social Service, the Board of Education, the Department of Juvenile Services to help in rehabilitating the child.  The final stage is the restitution hearing for the determination of the monetary compensation for the victim who suffered injury for the delinquent acts of the juvenile.

The Juvenile Court today has adopted the significant Supreme Court rulings in the landmark cases mentioned above.  Before deciding the case, the court determines the general demeanor of the offender, home and school environment and medical history.  Every possible way to help the parents and the juvenile delinquents are being coordinated not only by the judge but also by other members of the judicial system.


Kent v. U. S. 383 U.S. 541 (1966). Supreme Court of the United States, Supreme Court

Collection. Cornell University Law School.  Retrieved on October 25, 2007 from

Palicz, A. K. Review in re Gault. Retrieved on October 25, 2007 from


Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519 (1975, May 27). U. S. Supreme Court.  Findlaw. Retrieved on

October 25, 2007 from

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