Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Crime and Criminal Law » Juveniles in the Adult System - Judicial Waiver And Individualized Sentencing, Legislative Offense Exclusion And Prosecutors' Choice Of Forum, Youth Crime And "get Tough" Politics

Juveniles in the Adult System - Legislative Offense Exclusion And Prosecutors' Choice Of Forum

court youths criminal courts

Legislative offense exclusion simply removes certain offenses from juvenile court jurisdiction—youths charged with those crimes are "automatic adults." Concurrent jurisdiction "direct file" laws grant to prosecutors the power to choose whether to charge a youth accused of a specified offense in either juvenile or criminal court without justifying that decision in a judicial hearing or with a formal record. Youths have no constitutional right to a juvenile court. State legislatures create juvenile courts and define their jurisdiction, powers, and purposes in many different ways. What they create, they also may modify or take away. States currently set juvenile courts' maximum age jurisdiction at seventeen, sixteen, or fifteen years old as a matter of state policy and without constitutional infirmity. If a legislature defines juvenile court jurisdiction to include only persons below a jurisdictional age and whom prosecutors charge with a nonexcluded offense, then by statutory definition all other chronological juveniles are adult criminal defendants.

Excluded youths tried in criminal courts have challenged their "automatic adulthood" as a denial of due process. Because courts decline to review prosecutors' discretionary charging decisions, excluded youths object that they do not receive the procedural safeguards required by Kent. Youths also contend that exclusion based on the offense charged constitutes an arbitrary legislative classification that violates equal protection. In United States v. Bland (1972), the leading case on the validity of legislative offense exclusion statutes, the court declined to review prosecutorial decisions because the constitutional separation of powers denies the judicial branch the power to compel or control the executive branch in essentially discretionary matters. In the absence of invidious discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or the like, a prosecutor's decisions about whether and whom to charge and with what remain beyond judicial review. Youths also have argued that offense-exclusion laws create an arbitrary and irrational statutory distinction—criminal or delinquent status—based on serious or minor offenses that violates equal protection. Courts uniformly reject such claims, noting that classification on the basis of offenses involves neither an inherently suspect class nor an invidious discrimination, and the loss of juvenile court treatment does not infringe any fundamental right.

Pure prosecutorial waiver statutes create concurrent jurisdiction in juvenile and criminal courts for certain offenses and give prosecutors discretion to charge youths of certain ages with the same offense in either forum. Unlike offense-exclusion where charges only for certain offenses can result in criminal prosecution, direct file legislation gives prosecutors greater latitude to choose the forum. Essentially, the prosecutor makes two types of decisions: whether probable cause exists to believe that the youth committed a particular offense and, if that offense is one for which concurrent jurisdiction exists, whether to charge the youth in either juvenile or criminal court. Although youths have challenged the validity of direct file laws that delegate to prosecutors discretion to choose a youth's juvenile or criminal status, appellate courts invoke the rationale of Bland and reject their claims.

Juveniles in the Adult System - Youth Crime And "get Tough" Politics [next] [back] Juveniles in the Adult System - Judicial Waiver And Individualized Sentencing

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or