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Juveniles in the Adult System - Legislative Changes In Waiver Strategies

excluded offenses youths jurisdiction

States made relatively limited use of offensebased strategies until Kent required a judicial waiver hearing and thereby provided the impetus for more streamlined and efficient transfer alternatives. A few states long had excluded from their juvenile courts older youths charged with capital offenses or crimes punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder. Some states also excluded youths charged with other serious crimes such as rape or armed robbery. But, reflecting the influences of "just deserts" jurisprudence, criminal career research, and "get tough" politics, two distinct legislative trends emerged between the 1970s and the early 1990s. First, more states excluded at least some offenses from their juvenile courts' jurisdiction, lowered the ages of juveniles' eligibility for criminal prosecution, and increased the numbers of offenses for which states may prosecute youths as adults. Second, the number of states that allow prosecutors, rather than judges, to select the forum via concurrent jurisdiction increased as did the offenses for which prosecutors may transfer youths.

A compilation and analysis of states' waiver laws in 1986 reported that eighteen states excluded at least some offenses from their juvenile courts' jurisdiction, typically capital crimes or murder by youths sixteen or older. One statutory compilation a decade later reported that twenty-six states excluded some offenses from their juvenile courts' jurisdiction, a 45 percent increase in less than a decade. A second statutory compilation in 1995 that included judicially waived youths previously convicted as adults in its excluded offense classification reported that thirty-eight states excluded at least some offenders from juvenile court jurisdiction. A third compilation that compared waiver statutes in 1979 with those in 1995 reported that during that period, eight additional states joined the excludedoffense ranks, a 35 percent increase. During the 1979–1995 period, almost half of the states also lowered the age of eligibility for adult prosecution and expanded the number of excluded offenses. Still another statutory survey reported that between 1992 and 1995, twenty-four states added some crimes to their excluded offense lists and six states lowered the minimum ages for some or all of their excluded offenses.

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