When a police officer refers a case to juvenile court, a prosecutor or juvenile court officer becomes involved and decides whether to resolve the matter informally or with formal charges. The officer evaluates a number of factors, including:
If a parent was not the reporting party, the juvenile’s custodial parent or guardian must be contacted when the juvenile is brought in for questioning. During the first 24 hours a juvenile is in custody, he or she must make an initial appearance before a probation officer, judge or court referee for further discussion or processing.
Even if a police officer or school official saw the juvenile commit the wrongful act, a chance exists that the juvenile will be released with the understanding that he or she must return for adjudication. If a court decides to hold a juvenile before an adjudication hearing, a detention hearing must be held. In some states, this hearing must be held no later than the second business day after the juvenile has been taken into custody.
Once a petition is filed, a judge or court referee must decide whether the youth will be tried under the juvenile court’s authority or put through a transfer or waiver hearing to determine if the case should be handled by the adult criminal justice system.
When juvenile court authorities decide whether to transfer a juvenile to adult court, they usually consider these standards set forth by the Supreme Court in Kent v. United States:
A juvenile waived into the adult criminal justice system may:
Blended sentencing is most likely to be used when neither the juvenile nor adult court system options, when viewed separately, appear to be adequate or proper. For example, if a youth committed a series of aggravated assaults in which the victims suffered extensive injuries, the juvenile court might decide that it cannot fully meet the juvenile’s rehabilitative needs and society’s right to protection from the juvenile.
One type of blended sentencing would allow the juvenile to serve the first years of confinement in a juvenile facility. At the time of the juvenile’s state-mandated release hearing, a state could:
In spite of arguments based on the Eighth and 14th amendments, which prohibit cruel and unusual punishment, the death penalty was being applied and upheld against some juveniles as recently as the last decade. It was not until the Supreme Court’s March 2005 decision in Roper v. Simmons that the U.S. outlawed the death penalty for people younger than 18 who commit violent acts.
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