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Juvenile offenders should be tried and punished as adults

A youth say 13, boy or girl, acquires a gun and shoots another youth who has been harassing them. There is no doubt they should receive some sort of punishment for their actions. However, should they receive this punishment through the Juvenile Courts or Criminal Courts? This is the question, which has no real definitive answer. However, this paper will attempt to address some important issued concerning this matter. Studies have shown that juvenile crime was on the raise during the beginning of the 1990’s. During the late 1990’s and into the early part of the new century these crimes have fallen slightly. However, where these crimes the same type of crimes as juveniles committed before? No these crimes have become more violent in nature due to the change in the world we live in. Therefore, in conducting research into this matter it came to show the age of the individual should not be a determining factor but the crime committed. Juveniles today commit more serious crimes than before; thus requiring them to be tried and punished as adults because of the nature of the crime, violence involved, and types of crimes.

Now in dealing with the crimes being committed we cannot discuss this without first getting over a major hurdle, being age. This is the most discussed portion of any argument when dealing with juveniles and crime. At what age does a child have the ability to commit a crime? Under the common law, which all laws in the United States originated, states that a child could not commit a crime if the defense was able to prove infancy. Infancy or in other words immaturity was the guide and concluded a child could not commit an adult offense. However, what is this age and when does it or did it change? Well in order to answer these questions, we must look into our past. Children for many years were more property then identified as person. If a child did something wrong it was legal for a father to take his life. Now as time went on things changed and so did life. Progress was moving forward and children advanced along with the rest of humanity. This is evident today in that children today do things we could only dream of doing at their age. In considering this at what age, does a child show a difference between diminished responsibility and bad decision? Children today have advanced socially due to modern technology such as television, movies, and games. The time when a child killed someone but because he/she did not understand a gun with bullets can harm is no longer. Now they can still make a bad decision but at the same time adults make bad decisions and are held responsible so why not those children who do the same thing? Legislation in each state addressed this issue. The State of Arizona for example has no age limit for transferring a juvenile to criminal court. Arizona uses a variety of provisions in order to deal with juvenile crime. These include judicial wavier laws like discretionary and presumptive. In addition, procedures for dealing concurrent jurisdiction, statutory exclusion, reverse wavier and once an adult always an adult. The next part in dealing with age is the use of term delinquency as it pertains to juvenile crime.

Before continuing, you must understand when dealing with juvenile crimes the term delinquency is a part of the actions involved. All juveniles who process through the Juvenile Court system obtain the label as delinquent. However, there are two types of delinquency, first are the illegal acts whether committed by an adult or juvenile. Second are status offenses, which only juveniles commit. These status offenses are those such as curfew violations, truancy, and running away from home. These acts, though they concern us, may only come into consideration when deciding to transfer a juvenile to criminal court, but are not tried themselves in criminal court. The illegal acts such as murder, robbery, rape, and so on are the crimes in which juveniles are transfer to criminal court. These crimes are the ones in which juveniles today are committing but until recently where tried in Juvenile court. In many cases, delinquency determines if a juvenile who has committed minor offenses, then commits a felony crime requires transferred. Under some current legislation once, a juvenile commits a felony crime they automatically are delinquent and transferred to criminal court. What is the nature of the crimes that would constitute a juvenile being transferred to criminal court?

The nature of the crimes committed by juveniles has changed over the years. For example, if a juvenile took someone’s car without permission it was more of a prank referred to as joyriding. Today taking of the same car would be theft. Since most uses of stolen cars is for the furtherance of committing other crimes. This is just a simple example but it sets the stage for how the juvenile justice system had to evolve in order to keep up with the crimes being committed. The focus of the juvenile courts was rehabilitation of the offenders without attaching a permanent criminal record. Believing that all children had no knowledge or responsibility of the actions they committed. This relates back to the argument about age and crimes committed by juveniles. Until the 1990’s juveniles, committing crimes rarely saw their case transferred to criminal court. This changed when juveniles began committing more and more “adult” crimes and the thought changed concerning the nature of crime as it pertains to juveniles. Therefore, legislation adjusted the focus of the juvenile justices system correcting the nature of the crime to be the same between adults and juveniles. Juveniles who committed felony crimes were now responsible for those crimes and received the same legal process as adults. This in itself was a major change from that of the juvenile courts. Under the provisions of juvenile courts, an offender did not have any constitutional rights. In criminal court, these juveniles now received the same protections under the constitution. Now that the nature of crime changed to meet the needs of the justice system, the violence used became a concern.

In the early years of the juvenile justice system, there was violence involved with certain crimes committed. However, the violence pertained more to assault and battery. As time progressed so did the juvenile criminals. Now longer were the crimes just involving assault but weapons, particularly guns became involved. Increasing the violence used while committing crimes. This also led to the increase of fear in the public concerning juvenile criminal activity. As far as weapons are concerned, the use of a gun in violent assaults exceeds that of other weapons. The juvenile offender no longer needs to be within arms range to commit crimes. The use of a gun provided for an increase in murders and attempted murders committed by juveniles. Furthermore, technology today overwhelmed juveniles with images justifying gun violence. We cannot change the advancement of technology but it should be of concern to us. The problems of being a juvenile today also influenced juvenile violence. Juveniles carrying guns to school and using them helped fuel the thought of transferring cases to criminal court. Now not all crimes committed by juveniles with the use of weapons have received transfers to criminal court. The use of a gun, which is violent, was the center point of a case in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. In this case, a juvenile found and began playing with a gun; even though he removed the magazine; he did not know the gun was still loaded. He pointed the gun at a friend and killed her. This case remained in juvenile court and the offender received a sentence of one year in jail. So what is the difference between this and a juvenile who uses a gun in a drive by shooting? The amount of violence is the same. The difference is the intent involved. This again brings up the issue of age and knowledge of the crime being committed. Juveniles who use violence during the commission of a crime know what they are doing and need to be accountable for them. Now with these changes in the nature of crime and violence, the need to discuss the legislative statutes involved with transferring cases to criminal court.

“The association between psychopathic characteristics and the severity of the crime has been investigated in two studies. Brandt et al. (1997) found a correlation between the 18-itemPCL-R Total and Factor 1 scores and crime severity. Gretton, McBride, Lewis, O’Shaughnessy, and Hare (1994) reported that adolescent sex offenders with high PCL:YV scores threatened their victims more and used more server violence during their sexually assaultive acts then did nonpsychopathic sexual offenders. (Gacono, 2000)”

When dealing with juveniles and the current procedures of transferring them to criminal court, one must consider the types of crimes, which brought this about. “Instead, more selective strategies seem warranted in which only the most violent youth (e.g., those employing firearms and chronic violent offenders) are targeted for criminal court processing.” (Myers,D. & Young, M. 2005) The seriousness of a felony crime and the fact they are being committed by juveniles lead to a fear in the public. Whether this fear is real or imagined is not the issue. The fact that juveniles are killing causes concern to many. Now the origins of the juvenile courts came about to deal with the problems of juveniles committing petty crimes and status offenses. Since that, time society has changed and life has changed. Juveniles today are involved in criminal activity that before was considered only done by adults. The violent activity of gangs increased with drug activities beginning in the early 1990 has also supported these fears. These issues met with an outcry from the public to get control of the activities of these juvenile criminals and protect the public. As stated before Arizona has several methods for dealing with juvenile criminals. At the top level is the fact Arizona has no age limit for which the transfer of a juvenile case to criminal court. Therefore, upon the determination of the district attorney, the decision to transfer the case to criminal court can occur to any juvenile even at the age of 10. The state also has other means authorized by legislation concerning the transfer of cases. Arizona has Judicial Wavier, which contains two components. The first is discretionary, which allows for the use of discretion when determining if prosecutor transfers a case. The next is presumptive, which is when age, crime and statutory requires make transfer the mean but allows the offender to show proof that the case should not transfer. Then there is concurrent jurisdiction where the prosecutor can proceed in juvenile or criminal court as they both have authority. Statutory exclusion is for certain categories of juvenile offenders and the decision is solely with prosecutor. Then there is reverse wavier, which allows the criminal court to send the case back to juvenile court of action. Also Arizona has the once an adult/always an adult, which means once a juvenile has processed as an adult in criminal court he/she will always be processed in criminal court. Now with an understanding of how cases transfer to criminal court, we need to look at the crimes juveniles commit.

Criminal statutes vary from state to state. “Juvenile delinquency is a violation of state or federal law or municipal ordinance by a minor that, if committed by an adult, would constitute a crime.” (Roberts, A. 2004b) However, under every state statute the crimes, which are felony crimes, remain the same. Crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, are just some of the crimes. A felony crime is one in which the offender can receive one year or more in prison. Nationally the numbers of juveniles arrested for felony crimes began to increase and in most statics peaked in the mid 1990’s. Even though there was a drop since that time, the numbers concerning violent crimes are still alarming. The Federal Bureau of Investigations is responsible for tracking crime statistics. Now in dealing with statistics you must take it with a grain of salt. Writers use Statistics to sway our opinions for one purpose or another. However, in taking the information just as shown, you can make you own decision. The information between 1999 and 2008 showed drops in murder/manslaughter, forcible rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson, and violent crime. These numbers were significant as they showed decreases above 10 percent in all but two categories.

(Extract from “Crime in the United States 2008.”)

However, those same statistics when taken in a smaller year span show much different results. Between 2004 and 2008, those same crimes showed increases in murder/manslaughter, robbery, burglary, larceny, and violent crime. All these crimes listed are felony crimes across the country. These types of crimes are which the changes in law and attitude prompted transferring juveniles to criminal court. Now is there a correlation between the reduction in some crimes and the punishments received by offenders? This is a good question, since statistics relating to crimes committed by juveniles is non-existent or of no value. However, one can conclude that the decrease can result from more juveniles incarcerated. However, there are studies, which indicate that juveniles transferred to criminal court receive less punishment, then those retained in juvenile courts. Whatever the case maybe these types of crimes are of concern throughout the public and treating these offenders as adults was a necessary requirement. This with the other factors justified the transferring juvenile criminals to criminal courts.

Age of a juvenile came into consideration when determining whether they were able to commit a felony crime. This is not the case anymore as we progressed through the years so have the juveniles. Where there was a belief they could not understand what they were doing, they now know fully their actions. Delinquent juveniles have shown there inability to respond to rehabilitation and therefore need to receive more appropriate punishments. The natures of the crimes committed by juveniles now no longer perceived to be acts of immaturity but the criminal acts they are. Juveniles can and do understand their acts and those who commit criminal activity with knowing intent should receive the same treatment as adult. There are legislative statutes to control the transfer of juveniles to criminal court. Even though they are not perfect they due provide for constitutional guaranties and only transfer those who require appropriate treatment. . There is no end in sight for the types of crimes being committed. We cannot go back in time therefore we need to treat those juvenile criminals as such and stop the glorification of committing these crimes.

Reference Page

"Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders." A Century of Juvenile Justice. (2002) Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 206, 226-229.

Griffin, P., Szymanski, L., & Torbet, P.(1998) Trying Juveniles As Adults in Criminal Courts: An Analysis of State Transfer Provisions. New York: Diane Pub Co..

Gacono, C. (2000). The Clinical and forensic assessment of psychopathy: a practitioner’s guide. Mahwah, NJ . Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc..

Myers, D., & Young, M. (2005) "How Should the Criminal Justice System Treat Juvenile Offenders?." Opposing Viewpoints Series - Juvenile Crime (hardcover edition). 1 ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 95-110.

Roberts, A. (2004a) "Juvenile Justice Policy." Juvenile Justice Sourcebook Past Present and Future, Edition: 3. New York: Oxford Univpr, 49-51 and 56-60.

Roberts, A. (2004b) "Juvenile Court." Juvenile Justice Sourcebook Past Present and Future, Edition: 3. New York: Oxford Univpr, 252-257.

Roberts, A. (2004c) "An Overview of Juvenile and Juvenile Delinquency." Juvenile Justice Sourcebook Past Present and Future, Edition: 3. New York: Oxford Univpr, 10,11,13,15,19,20,21.

Scott, E.S., & Steinberg, L.(2008). "Why Crime is Different?." Rethinking Juvenile Justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 94-99.

Snyder, Howard N..(2000) Juvenile transfers to criminal court in the 1990's : lessons learned from four studies : summary (SuDoc J 32.20:J 98). Pittsburgh, PA: U.S. Dept Of Justice, Office Of Justice Programs, Office Of Juvenile Justice And Delinquency Prevention.

The Changing Faces of Juvenile Justice (Monographs of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch). (1978) 1st, Date Same on Title & Copyright Page ed. New York City: New York University Press.

Zimring, F.E..(2005) "A Rational For American Juvenile Justice." American Juvenile Justice. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 56-62.

“Crime in the United States 2008.” FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web 13 July 2010. <http://www/fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/

Snyder, H., Sickmund, M., & Poe-Yamagata, E. (2000) Juvenile Transfers to Criminal Court in the 1990’s: Lessons Learned From Four States. National Center for Juvenile Justice: Pittsburg, PA.

Griffin, P. (2008) Different from Adults: An Updated Analysis of Juvenile Transfer and Blending Sentencing Laws, With Recommendations for Reform. National Center for Juvenile Justice: Pittsburg, PA

Griffin, P. (2003) Trying and Sentencing Juveniles as Adults: An Analysis of State Transfer and Blending Sentencing Laws. National Center for Juvenile Justice: Pittsburg, PA

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