Learning Objectives After studying this chapter, you should be able to accomplish the following objectives:

▪ Explain the purpose and primary features of the juvenile court. ▪ Summarize the jurisdiction of juvenile court, especially with regard to cases of abuse and neglect. ▪ Describe the traditional juvenile court process. ▪ Evaluate the different types of problem-solving courts. ▪ Summarize the laws used to transfer juveniles to adult court. ▪ Analyze the legal issues surrounding the death penalty for juveniles and the recent Supreme Court decision on mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

6The Juvenile Court Model

Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press/Associated Press

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Chapter Outline 6.1 Introduction

6.2 Jurisdiction of the Court

▪ Cases of Abuse and Neglect ▪ Child Protective Services

6.3 Traditional Juvenile Court Process

▪ Arrest ▪ Intake ▪ Detention ▪ Adjudication and Disposition ▪ Diversion

6.4 Alternative Processes: Problem-Solving Courts

▪ Teen Courts ▪ Juvenile Drug Courts ▪ Mental Health Courts

6.5 Alternative Processes: Transferring Youth to Adult Court

▪ Transfer Laws ▪ Criticisms of Transfer Laws

6.6 Death Penalty for Juveniles

In the fall of 2002, two men terrorized the Washington, D.C., area by randomly killing 10 people over the course of three weeks. The pair earned the name “Beltway Snipers” because of the shooting method used to kill their victims. In most circumstances, the victims were shot sniper-style from a long distance without the shooters being seen by the victims or others around them. The victims were chosen at random while they were simply going about their everyday lives.

During the three-week period, the police had many leads but no real suspects. Then an anony- mous tipster directed police to a previous shooting in Alabama. In that case, the police found finger- print evidence, eventually linking the suspects and identifying the make and model of the car they were driving. Shortly thereafter, the police apprehended the assailants sleeping in their car at a rest stop near where the crimes were committed. After the assailants were caught, the police found the weapon used in many of the shootings as well as a hole in the trunk apparently used to conceal the sniper’s gun. The two individuals eventually convicted of the crimes were John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. John Allen Muhammad, a 43-year-old man, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection in November 2009.

The public was shocked to learn that the second assailant, Lee Boyd Malvo, was only 17 at the time of the shootings. He is currently serving six life sentences without the possibility of parole for his role in the crimes (Horwitz & Ruane, 2004). Prosecutors in Virginia contemplated trying him for additional capital crimes, which could have resulted in the death penalty. However, in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty is unconstitutional for juvenile defendants.

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Section 6.1Introduction

6.1 Introduction The juvenile justice system has changed over time in many ways. By most accounts, the cre- ation of the first juvenile court is one of the most significant changes in the history of the juve- nile justice system. The juvenile court model, created in 1899, developed with the recognition that juveniles are different from adult offenders. As such, the juvenile court concept adopted a less formal role of processing cases. In effect, the court embraced a caretaking role toward juveniles. At the same time, however, we have seen political and social forces shape the cur- rent juvenile court model.

There is a great deal of variation in how juvenile courts are organized throughout the United States. For example, juvenile courts nationwide differ in terms of who they serve, the interac- tions among the courtroom workgroup, and sentencing options available to judges. As noted by Bilchik (1999),

There is much variation in the way state statutes define the purposes of their juvenile courts. Some declare their goals in exhaustive detail, even listing spe- cific programs and sentencing options; others mention only broad aims. Most states seek to protect the interests of the child, the family, the community, or a combination of the three. (p. 3)

Although differences exist, the juvenile court model is organized around several core features:

• The judge should act as a parent or advocate for the child rather than rely simply on punishment.

• Juveniles and adults should be separated for all proceedings. • Juveniles and adults should be kept in separate institutions. • Probation officers should be appointed who will investigate the youth’s background

and provide case management services.

The first juvenile court was established in 1899. In 1999, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) published a series of articles to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its establishment; however, questions remain whether the core concepts of the juvenile court system have ever been fully realized. In the late 1990s, Cindy Lederman (1999) concluded that the courts were more punitive and lacked the resources needed to achieve their intended goal: the prevention of juvenile delinquency. She argued that juvenile courts should not simply mirror the adult criminal court system. Rather, they should be organized around the founding principles of rehabilitation and advocacy.

Political and social forces play an important role in shaping juvenile justice policy. The juve- nile court model is not immune to these types of influences. As the number of juvenile courts grew, several significant changes occurred. For example, as more juveniles were subjected to the court system, reformers advocated for the protection of juveniles’ due process rights. The focus on due process rights was advocated as a way to protect, not punish, juveniles who were involved in the system. However, as the “get tough” movement of the 1980s and 1990s spread through the country, reformers advocated for a punitive shift in the handling of juve- nile offenders. One example of this punitive shift is the increased number of youths treated as adults as shown by the increased use of transfer waivers to the adult court. Many states broadened the criteria for transferring juvenile offenders to the adult criminal court system

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Section 6.2Jurisdiction of the Court

based on deterrence theory—that is, harsher treatment and punishments would discourage, or deter, would-be offenders in the future.

By the early 2000s, though, trends reversed, and juvenile courts began adopting more poli- cies congruent with the original goals of rehabilitation. For example, alternative courts such as juvenile drug courts, teen courts, and even juvenile mental health courts have become popular options. These courts, which have spread rapidly throughout the country, pair the court and the treatment provider to address juveniles’ various needs. Raising the age of jurisdiction (the age at which youth convicted of certain crimes will be sent to adult criminal court for processing) is a topic that has gained support in recent years. Finally, three major Supreme Court rulings since 2005 have affected the juvenile justice system in terms of death penalty eligibility and sentences of lifetime with- out parole. As we examine the current juvenile court system in this chapter, we discuss these issues as well as many others.

6.2 Jurisdiction of the Court Although many people may consider anyone under the age of 18 as a “youth,” courts vary in how they treat 16- and 17-year-old offenders. The majority of the states in this country set the age of original jurisdiction at 17 years of age; five states set it at 16 (see Figure 6.1). This issue continues to evolve because of research calling into question the effectiveness of trans- ferring youth to adult court.

Figure 6.1: Number of states by age of original jurisdiction*

*South Carolina’s Act 268 raised the age through age 17, effective 7/1/19; Louisiana’s Act 501 raised the age through 17 for some youth effective 7/1/18, and others effective 7/1/20; New York’s A3009C raised the age through 16 effective 10/1/18, and through age 17 effective 10/1/19; North Carolina’s SL2017-57 raised the age through 17, effective 12/1/19.

“Delinquency upper age, 2016,” from “OJJDP statistical briefing book,” by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2017, Retrieved from and “Recent changes,” from “Jurisdictional boundaries,” by Juvenile Justice Geography, Policy, Practice, & Statistics, 2017, Retrieved from

Certain charges influence when a juvenile is automatically transferred. For example, Georgia Senate Bill 440, titled the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, gives the adult court exclusive jurisdic- tion over the trial of juveniles 13–17 years of age who have committed any offense catego- rized as the “seven deadly sins.” They are









0 16 years old 17 years old


45 45

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Section 6.2Jurisdiction of the Court

• Murder • Rape • Aggravated robbery with a firearm • Aggravated child molestation • Aggravated sodomy • Aggravated sexual batter • Voluntary manslaughter (Georgia Department of Corrections, 2016)

Age aside, the juvenile court also serves youth from various backgrounds and offense types. For example, in addition to more serious criminal cases, the juvenile court is in charge of status offenders and abuse and neglect cases. In some states, the juvenile court retains jurisdiction over child custody disputes, youth with mental illnesses, protection orders, and child support.

It is the processing of abuse and neglect cases and status offenders, however, that continues to be the subject of great debate in the field of juvenile justice. Both groups are considered vulnerable populations, and studies suggest that, without careful consideration, the court’s involvement could exacerbate the problem.

Cases of Abuse and Neglect Abuse and neglect cases can present a number of unique challenges to the juve- nile court system. For example, the juve- nile court must be mindful of how the court’s involvement in the youth’s life could exacerbate existing problems (e.g., negative labeling, exposure to delin- quents). In other circumstances, the youth’s family may be involved in the criminal justice system and be resistant to engage in the process. In still other cir- cumstances, the youth may be involved in the system both in an abuse and neglect case and in a criminal case on a different matter. The complexity of these situations is illustrated in numerous studies that link exposure to violence (including child abuse) to criminal behavior. Consider the following facts:

• Abused children are significantly more likely to be involved in criminal behavior com- pared to those who were not abused.

• Abused children are more likely to be arrested both as juveniles and adults. • Abused children are three times more likely to use drugs and alcohol and to exhibit

aggressive behavior (Earle, 1995). • Studies show that abused and neglected youth may also experience other forms of

victimization, making their trauma more complex and the effects longer lasting (Fin- kelhor, Turner, Hamby, & Ormrod, 2011).

Axiom Photographic Limited/SuperStock The juvenile court system intervenes in cases of abuse and neglect and often must determine custody of juveniles.

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Section 6.2Jurisdiction of the Court

The court’s responsibility for the child in an abuse and neglect case rests with the concept of in loco parentis. In loco parentis means “in place of the parent” and implies that the juve- nile court will maintain responsibility for the care of the juvenile in cases where the parents’ rights are terminated. Juveniles in this circumstance are referred to as wards of the state. In some circumstances, the juvenile court will decide whether criminal prosecution of the par- ent is necessary.

However, in many abuse and neglect cases, the parental rights are not terminated. In these cases, the purpose of the court’s involvement is to intervene and determine whether family reunification is possible. Regardless, the court will examine the needs of the youth and decide placement and custody issues for the child’s safety.

Child Protective Services Child Protective Services (CPS) is often involved in the disposition and investigation of abuse and neglect cases. Many states created CPS agencies in response to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974, which mandates that states provide services to investigate allegations of child maltreatment. The court’s involvement in child abuse and neglect cases often results from the findings of a CPS investigation. A typical investigation begins with a complaint to a CPS agency by a teacher, neighbor, police officer, or other con- cerned citizen. The CPS worker will investigate the allegation and decide whether to invoke a court filing on behalf of the youth. Although CPS agencies developed to investigate and care for the youth, these agencies have been the subject of intense criticism and scrutiny (see Spot- light: Does Child Protective Services Really Protect the Child? for further discussion).

Spotlight: Does Child Protective Services Really Protect the Child?

The news article was titled “Me and My Stick, We Gonna Have Some Fun.” Those were the alleged words of an irate father who beat his sons, one of them to death. All of the children in the home were regularly beaten, burned, and forced to live in filthy conditions in the base- ment. The family had been under the investigation of Child Protective Services (CPS), which said they found nothing wrong even when critics argued there were clear signs of abuse and neglect in the home (Stopczynski, 2012).

Child Protective Services agencies (sometimes known as the Department of Child and Family Services or the Department of Social Services) are under continual scrutiny either for fail- ing to protect children, as in the example just noted, or for keeping children away from their families for too long. These agencies have a difficult job to do and often lack the resources and staff training for adequate intervention.

Critics argue that CPS is unable to protect children and should be disbanded, because it has, in one author’s words, “outlived its usefulness”; others argue that the system of investigation is broken (Bergman, 2010). CPS workers are torn between being skeptical of the parents or caregivers who may have something to hide and being mindful of keeping families intact for the benefit of the child. Still others argue that we may need to revise our expectations of CPS,

(continued on next page)

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Section 6.3Traditional Juvenile Court Process

In most jurisdictions, the juvenile court judge will hold a hearing to examine the case, assess the child’s safety, and determine whether the child needs alternative placements. In some jurisdictions, the case may be mediated pretrial. In this circumstance, the parents, attorneys, and child protection advocate may be able to establish an agreement prior to an adjudication hearing with the court. Youth may be appointed a guardian ad litem as well. The guardian ad litem’s role is to provide another voice in the process to advocate for the youth’s best interest.

The formal adjudication process often results in a specific course of action for the youth and sometimes for the parents. For example, if the youth needs services, the judge will order those at this time. The judge may also provide specific instructions or steps that the parents must follow in order to regain full custody of the youth. The court will remain involved in the case and review the progress of the youth and the parents in achieving reunification. In the end, the judge will decide permanent placement, whether with the biological parents, another relative, a foster parent, or someone else (Jones, 2006).

Critics worry that the court could have a negative impact on youth by pulling kids away from protective factors such as school, sports, and prosocial friends. As a result, some judges believe it is best to leave youth out of the courtroom process. However, others argue that youth should play an active role in the process, which includes notification of the court hear- ings, representation, and the opportunity to advocate for their own behalf (Jones, 2006). These same concerns play out in cases where juveniles are adjudicated criminally.

6.3 Traditional Juvenile Court Process The traditional juvenile court process is designed to be nonadversarial. In other words, the court system is designed to serve the best interest of the child. As such, the system differs in many ways from the adult criminal justice system. How the Miranda warning applies to juveniles is one example of how the systems differ. For example, police are required to issue

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