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Easily Understand the Juvenile Justice Process State Variations

Juvenile Justice Process State Variations

In analyzing the juvenile justice system and the juvenile justice process, there is much commonality in the search for juvenile justice in America. This is to say that the actual procedural elements of a State's juvenile justice system tend to be reminiscent of one another.

Before even getting to a hearing that will decide whether or not a possible offending minor is guilty, that individual has to be brought in on charges. The juvenile justice process begins with a complaint against a minor either solicited by a concerned citizen or evidenced by police officers themselves on patrol. Following investigation, children are either free to go with a warning or notification to their guardians.

It is the adjudication courts that are really at the heart of juvenile justice in America. There is still a chance at this stage in the process for a child to be remanded to the jurisdiction of a criminal court, but if a case warrants seeing it to the full extent of the juvenile court hearing, there are a few possible outcomes. Of course, if a child is found not to be delinquent at all, his or her experience with the juvenile justice system (at least for the time being) is over. For those who are ruled to be guilty and must undergo a disposition hearing, though, the court must decide on the proper course of action for their good over the long haul.

Under the least restrictive circumstances required, a judge will refer children back to their homes, but only with the idea that both they and their families will receive treatment related to the problems that brought them (the children) to juvenile court in the first place. As the child's perceived needs specify, they may also be put on probation or committed to a youth detention center. Whatever decision the judge makes, a court-appointed counselor will work with the child and his or her family.

As noted, juvenile justice in America is largely regulated by the states. The biggest variations between jurisdictions arise in definitions of who is eligible to appear before a juvenile court and under what circumstances that privilege may be revoked. While the majority of states specify that eighteen is the age of legal culpability in their district, some states like New York will only allow adjudication in a juvenile court until the age of sixteen.

Meanwhile, minors above a certain age may be tried in a criminal court before reaching an official minimum age of majority. Almost all states have provisions in their bylaws allowing for juvenile court judges to waive jurisdiction over a minor's case based on the nature of the offense, and a handful of states (e.g. Idaho, Maine, Mississippi) may continue to try a child as an adult after their first criminal court trial under a "once an adult, always an adult" policy.

NEXT: Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

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