I have never believed that most lawyers or judges take juvenile delinquency cases seriously. Many of them frequently refer to these matters as “kiddie crime”. Indeed, it is not unusual for a judge who has sat in an adult criminal trial court to feel offended as a result of being transferred to a juvenile court.
Attorneys and judges who have such views of the juvenile justice system have, however, failed to see its importance. One of the system’s most significant functions is to prevent juvenile offenders from becoming adult offenders. It is generally believed that a juvenile who is charged with acts of delinquency is more susceptible to rehabilitation because they are young, and the probability of successful rehabilitation decreases as the juvenile moves toward, and eventually attains, adulthood. Thus, successfully retraining and rehabilitating juvenile offenders while they are still relatively young reduces the likelihood that they will incur criminal charges as an adult. The theory is simple – offending behavior that is corrected at an early stage in life will remain corrected.
Nevertheless, there are juveniles who commit the most serious crimes regardless of their age and relative inexperience. These crimes include murder, armed robbery and sex offenses. Juvenile offenders who engage is such conduct are typically “waived up” to the adult court, where they are subjected to the adult criminal process like any other adult criminal defendant. Must we somehow balance the fact that they were juveniles when they committed their crimes against the severity of their offenses? Continue reading