Long before Juvenile court system was established, children as young as 7 years were subjected to the same trial process in criminal justice just like adults. However, towards the end of 18th century, a reform movement brought about the need to separate youth from adults in a trial process. According to a report on the juvenile offenders and victims, children were considered to have not yet developed the full moral and cognitive capacity to make sound judgement. Furthermore, the need to rehabilitate children rather than to criminalize them was considered essential. In this regard, a juvenile court was established to try children, and laws that govern juvenile trial procedure were enacted. However, there are certain cases where a juvenile court may waive its jurisdiction and transfer a child to a criminal court. Thus, even as there are some similarities between juvenile and criminal court, there are also substantial differences. This paper provides comparative analysis of juvenile court and adult court.
A case study of Kent v. United States provides an insight of juvenile court process. The case furnishes us with legal issues that affect a juvenile and a court as well as circumstances where waiving jurisdiction to a criminal court system would apply. Kent v. United States is one of the cases that began to reform juvenile court systems of which the impact of the decision became a precedent to future juvenile case. According to the case, Morris Kent, 16 years old, confessed to the charges laid against him of robbery and rape when he was put on trial on a juvenile court of District of Columbia. Even though Kent was pleaded guilty to a juvenile court, the judge waived the jurisdiction to an adult court system. This is despite the motion filed by Kents attorney against the waiver citing no sufficient grounds. Kent was then found guilty in a criminal court and sentenced to prison for 30 to 90 years. Kents attorney; however, appealed to the ruling and the case was heard before the Supreme Court after an appeal before court of appeal was rejected. The lawyers argument was that the waiver was invalid and that Kents counsel was not furnished with explanation why the filed motion against the waiver was rejected. In the ruling of the Supreme Court, the court overturned the decision by the juvenile court based on two reasons: one, the waiver was invalid since it did not amount to fair treatment of the offender; and two, Kents counsel was not allowed to access all the necessary records.
In the case aforementioned, some of the legal issues that were facing the juvenile and the court were: one, the issue having the case jurisdiction waived to a criminal court. According to the ruling of the Supreme Court on the case, waiving jurisdiction ought to the legally set out process as well as fairness in the way the juvenile is treated. This is to say that juvenile are not to be considered to be in the same moral and cognitive level with adults and; thus, are liable to less due process. Second, the court should provide sufficient grounds for waiver including the full records to the offenders attorney. In the case, the judge did not regard Kents attorney motion on waiver neither did he provide reasons for his ruling. Third, a juvenile mental state should be considered and rehabilitation to be prioritized above detention in regard to regeneration. Similarly, the District of Columbia juvenile court judge failed to consider the regenerative treatment of children in the case; thus, leading to the case being overruled in the Supreme Court.
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However, on the other hand, if the juvenile was an adult tried in a criminal court system, the adult would have been guilty and sentenced to 30 to 90 years in prison. Kent v. United States falls under a juvenile delinquency cases. Juvenile delinquency cases are those cases involving juveniles whose actions amount to crime if they were adults and; therefore, would have resulted in a criminal court system. In juvenile court system, the punishment for criminal acts and procedures used in the courtrooms are significantly different from those used in adult courts. In this regard, if a crime committed by a minor is of the same degree with of an adult, the ruling would, however, be substantively based on the procedures used in the two courts. Unlike in criminal proceedings, the focus on minor proceedings is mainly rehabilitation and to avoid consequences that might affect a childs life in long term. Thus, an adult will not receive mental treatment as in the case of Kent, but will be imprisoned for 30 to 90 years.
A juvenile justice system is more tolerant when a comparison is made with a system of criminal justice. When the juvenile justice system was established, there have been a lot of changes that was made; however, some procedures remained the same with that of criminal justice system. Thus, a comparison of these justice systems brings out their commonality and the differences. The differences largely depend on the cognitive and moral development between children and adults. Unlike adults, youth are considered to have under developed cognitive capacity that impair sound and moral judgment and, therefore, are given less due process. Accordingly, juvenile justice system primarily focuses on rehabilitation in attempt to correct bad behaviors whereas criminal justice system focusses on punishment of criminal acts. Records of juvenile cases are not fully accessible to public also court proceedings are done privately so that the juvenile can be protected from long term consequences of his or her behavior. Additionally, the proceedings are not considered criminal.
On the other hand, in a criminal justice system, all the court proceedings and the public can access the records as stated in the Act guiding freedom for information. And in addition, the proceedings are considered criminal. In minor justice system, the decision to file a court case is based on social and legal factors and also significant portion of the cases are processed informally. Criminal justice system, on the other hand, prosecution is primarily based on legal facts and the cases are processed in a formal way. Unlike in adults courts, juveniles are not allowed to apply for bonds or bail release. Similarly, juvenile unlike adults, have no constitutional right to a jury trial. Also, in terms of sentencing and disposition, juvenile courts based their dispositions on individual and social factors and often cover wide range of community based services. On the other hand, criminal courts determine sentence based on the offence committed and punishment is proportional to offense committed.
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However, both juvenile and criminal justice system have common grounds. For example, in both cases, the disposition and sentencing are based on the current offence, the history of the offender and other social aspects. Secondly, both systems apply constitutional rights and accountability to the law is upheld. In both cases, the prosecutor represents the States and the accused may be confined in order to assure their appearance on court. Also, for a sentence to be given there is need for satisfactory proof. In addition, appeal to higher court is a right that is accorded in both systems of justice. Other similarities include: preventive measures which include educational approaches; community based policing is employed as a way to enforce law. In addition, detention can be home-based or prison; the legal right to be represented by a lawyer; and finally, the community protection is considered an essential goal, monitoring of behavior is done in the aftercare stage and individuals who violate the rules are imprisoned.
There are special cases where a minor may be moved and subjected to the same court system as adults; through judicial waiver process. There are three categories in which this kind of transfer may fall: one, is the judicial waiver, in this case, the juvenile court judge has the right to transfer a juvenile to an adult court when he consider certain criteria met. The second is concurrent jurisdiction. Here, the jurisdiction of a particular case falls in both criminal court and juvenile court and; therefore, the prosecutor has the legal right to file the case in any of the two courts; and lastly, statutory exclusions, whereby a State exclude certain juvenile cases from the jurisdiction of minor court, for example, acts of terror committed by minors are in most states excluded from juvenile court. In the case of Kent v. United States, the case falls in the category of judicial waiver. In this case, the judge enjoys the authority when it comes to transferring the offender to adults court citing given met criteria. Even though the judge of juvenile court District of Columbia transferred the case to criminal court, the decision was later overruled by the Supreme Court. Thus, the transfer failed to take place. The reason given by the Supreme Court on the ruling was that one, the waiver was invalid because it violated the right of the child to a due process and fair treatment. This means that, the child did not meet the criteria that allows for transfer. Secondly, the reasons for the waiver were not given and access to all the records of the waiver was not granted to the Kents counsel. Lastly, the juvenile court should have ruled on the motion that was filed by the Kents attorney regarding the issue of jurisdiction and failure to do so resulted into unfair trial. Thus, even though the judge had authority to transfer the case, it failed because it did not meet the criteria that accords for judicial waiver.
According to the discussion from my collaborative group, the Kent v. United States is a case that deals with the procedure and the legality of transferring a juvenile to adult court. The group concluded that the judge did not provide supportive evidence for his action of transferring the case to a criminal court and thus the transfer failed based on unfair treatment and failure to follow due procedure. Furthermore, the group stated that if the juvenile was an adult then he would have been pronounced guilty of the charges and a sentence of 30 to 90 would have been proportional to the offense. The Supreme Court was right to overrule the decision made by the appeal court because the case did not constitute a fair treatment to the offender. And also, rehabilitation and consideration of mental treatment was considered the best option for the offender. Thus, Kent v. United States provided sufficient grounds for circumstances under which a juvenile may be transferred to adult court.
In conclusion, juvenile justice system is still, to a large extent, the most effective court system when it comes to trying juvenile cases. Minors are relatively less developed mentally and being subjected to same court process with adults is considered double jeopardy and unfair trial. In this regard, juvenile court system provides a better way to focus on minors and dispense justice in accordance with the cognitive and mental capacity of children. Childrens court and adult court system have significant differences in the manner of procedure and punishment administered. For example, childrens courts have limitation to public access; however, adults courts are open to the public. These differences are largely attributed to the philosophy of rehabilitating children as opposed to punishing them. Finally, judicial waiver allows for minors to be transferred to adult courts under certain circumstances, and; therefore, to transfer a child to adult court sufficient grounds must be provided.