1 minute read

North Carolina v. T. D. R.


Criminal punishment became increasingly politicized in the 1990s. Trying children as adults was often justified on grounds that teens who committed violent crimes should receive punishment comparable to their crimes. In addition, it was believed by many that stiff penalties served as deterrents to other teens who might commit murder or other serious crimes. The prospect of serving life with hardened criminals in adult prison might make those teens think twice. The possibility of only being sent to a juvenile detention for several years, it was argued, in no way provided the same deterrent. Legislatures were hesitant to pass any legislation that could be seen as being soft on crime. The public outcry for stiffer penalties became deafening, and the legislators were not about to deny the public what it yearned for. Previously, trying a juvenile as an adult was seen as a last resort after all avenues of the juvenile system had been utilized. By the 1990s, however, juveniles were being initially tried as adults because of public demand in most states. Whether this trend was the best avenue of trial and punishment was basically irrelevant in the politically conservative environment that existed.

Juvenile advocates, on the other hand, maintained that trying juveniles as adults was only a short-sighted, "knee-jerk" solution to a complex social condition. They argued that in satisfying the public's rage against violent teen perpetrators, the system was merely setting these offenders up for a reappearance into society with a criminal label, and in all likelihood, becoming even more dangerous to society after being locked up with adult criminals. Those supporting this contention believed that rather than locking these teens up, society as a whole needed to devise a community solution, since crime has traditionally been viewed as a community disease.

As youth crime escalated through the 1990s with few plausible alternatives to trying teens as adults who commit violent crimes, submersing teens into adult criminal systems remained society's popular response. Many believed that until the juvenile system experienced a complete overhaul to more effectively deal with violent teens, such as the use of juries in the process, elimination of legal counsel shortcomings, and applying consistently stricter punishment for violent crimes, states would continue to escalate trying juveniles as adults.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentNorth Carolina v. T. D. R. - Significance, Teen Assault And Court Jurisdiction, When Juveniles Are Adults, Impact, Further Readings