Adolescents in Juvenile Court Systems
Juvenile justice systems can vary greatly from one jurisdiction to the next. They can vary according to who they have control over (such as offenders, victims, and/or families) and what they can do with them. This chapter focuses on how the legal system treats offenders, particularly delinquent youth in the juvenile justice system. In that system, we learn that juveniles need important protections. Despite granting juveniles broad protection, the Court limits them in two important ways: either juveniles’ rights are limited because the Court does not grant full protections or because the Court grants full protections but minors may have limited capacities/abilities to benefit from them. For example, juveniles are given due process protections, under the Fourteenth Amendment, in detention hearings, but the Court reduces the protection by supporting justifications that permit treating juveniles differently when making detention decisions. Similarly, the Court recognizes many rights in juvenile adjudications, including the right to notice of the charges (6th Amendment), right to counsel (6th Amendment), right to confrontation and cross-examination (6th Amendment), and privilege against self-incrimination (5th Amendment). But it denies what might be perceived as key due process rights like the right to a transcript of the proceedings and right to appellate review: two limitations that leave immense discretion to the juvenile courts and that would be quite outrageous if denied by any other court. In other cases, the Court denies the right to speedy, public and impartial jury trials (6th Amendment). Few systems involve explicitly stated constitutional rights as much as juvenile courts. The chapter underscores how this area of law may recognize rights explicitly identified in the Constitution but, while doing so, this area of law may not necessarily apply well to adolescents. This area of law helps readers understand the rationales for the legal system’s differential treatment of adolescents and the relative legitimacy of those rationales.