Juvenile Crime - Prosecuting Minors As Adults

offenses juveniles criminal percent

Many people believe that some crimes are so terrible that the courts should focus on the type of offense and not the age of the accused. From 1987 to 1993, there was a dramatic 65 percent increase in the rate of arrests of juveniles for murder. The homicides were overwhelmingly concentrated among black teenagers in the nation's largest cities. Rates of other violent crimes, like rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, also increased during this time. Most experts believe the increases were related to an upsurge in violent gangs selling crack cocaine and lax controls on access to handguns during this time.

Politicians responded to voter outrage at the increase in violent crime among juveniles and several high-profile murders involving juveniles. By the year 2000 all 50 states and the District of Columbia had one or more laws permitting the transfer of youths to criminal courts to be tried as adults. Many states have also expanded these laws in order to make FIGURE 5.18
Juvenile arrest rates for violent crime index offenses by sex, 1980–2001
it easier to prosecute juveniles as adults. For example, a 1995 Missouri law removed the minimum age limit, which had been 14, for trying children as adults in cases involving drug dealing, murder, rape, robbery, and first-degree assault. The law also permits children 12 years old to be prosecuted as adults for other crimes. A Texas law allows children as young as 10 to be sentenced to up to 40 years' incarceration. In Idaho, criminal courts have jurisdiction over juveniles arrested for carrying concealed weapons on school property.

The number of cases transferred from juvenile to adult courts increased 47 percent between 1987 and 1996, from 6,800 to 10,000. However, despite increasing numbers, the proportion of transferred cases overall remained fairly constant in the 1990s. In 1992, 1.4 percent of all formally processed delinquency cases were transferred to criminal (adult) court. In 2000, 1 percent of all formally processed delinquency cases were waived to adult court.

Does the Practice Make a Difference?

Because the murder rate by juveniles consistently declined from 1992 to 2001, dropping about 62 percent FIGURE 5.19
Juvenile arrest rates for Property Crime Index offenses, by sex, 1980–2001
(to 1,400 murders in 2001), some public officials believe that efforts to curb crime by trying children as adults has worked. Other experts attribute the decline in the murder rate to big-city police crackdowns on illegal guns, expanded after-school crime prevention programs, and the decline of crack cocaine and violent gangs.

A Florida study suggested that juveniles tried in adult courts were likely to be rearrested more quickly and more often than juveniles who went through the juvenile court system ("The Transfer of Juveniles to Criminal Court: Does It Make A Difference?" Crime and Delinquency, April 1996). The study compared the rearrest rates of juveniles transferred to criminal court to a matched sample (similar crimes, past court experience, age, gender, and race) of those retained in the juvenile system. Thirty percent of transferred youths were rearrested, compared to only 19 percent of the nontransferred ones. Transferred youths who were rearrested had committed a new offense within 135 days of release, compared to 227 days for youths processed in juvenile courts.

Delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts, 1985–2000

Percent change
Most serious offense Number of cases 1985–2000 1991–2000 1996–2000 1999–2000
Total delinquency 1,633,300 43% 16% −9% −2%
Person offenses 375,600 107 35 −1 −3
Criminal homicide 1,700 22 −25 −37 −7
Forcible rape 4,700 36 −32 −39 −16
Robbery 22,600 7 −15 −25 11
Aggravated assault 51,200 −8 −29 −41 −12
Simple assault 255,800 43 −23 −36 −5
Other violent sex offenses 12,500 160 79 15 −1
Other person offenses 27,200 96 42 20 9
Property offenses 668,600 165 32 35 −15
Burglary 108,600 −3 −21 −23 −4
Larceny-theft 303,200 −10 −26 −26 −4
Motor vehicle theft 38,300 −23 −30 −25 −3
Arson 8,300 −7 −21 −27 −5
Vandalism 106,800 3 −46 −29 −3
Trespassing 49,400 22 14 −7 −2
Stolen property offenses 25,200 26 −5 −13 −3
Other property offenses 28,900 −7 −17 −25 −15
Drug law violations 194,200 −8 −15 −22 −4
Public order offenses 395,000 61 −9 −7 9
Obstruction of justice 179,200 164 197 5 2
Disorderly conduct 90,200 106 79 11 2
Weapons offenses 37,500 175 142 20 5
Liquor law violations 27,000 103 54 0 1
Nonviolent sex offenses 14,900 94 12 −15 −6
Other public order offenses 46,200 50 126 110 37
Violent crime index1 80,100 12 31 23 8
Property crime index2 458,300 47 46 −4 −11
1Includes criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
2Includes burglary, larceny-theft, moter vehicle theft, and arson.
SOURCE: "Deliquency Cases, 2000," in Statistical Briefing Book, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC, 2003 [Online] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/court/qa06201.asp?qaDate=20030811 [accessed April 10, 2004]

Some of the inherent problems in transferring juveniles to adult court are discussed in the book Youth on Trial: A Developmental Perspective of Juvenile Justice, edited by Thomas Grisso and Robert G. Schwartz (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2000). According to the research presented in the book, juveniles find it more difficult than adults to make "knowing and intelligent" decisions at many junctures in the criminal justice process. Problems arise in particular in the waiving of Miranda rights, which allow the juvenile to remain silent and talk to a lawyer before responding to questions posed by law enforcement officers. The waiving of these rights can lead to much more serious consequences in adult court than in juvenile proceedings. As the book points out, "questions must be raised regarding the juvenile's judgment, decision-making capacity, and impulse control as they relate to criminal culpability" in adult proceedings. Researchers and experts in child development emphasize the need to understand an adolescent's intellectual, social, and emotional development before deciding if a youth can be held blameworthy as an adult for a particular criminal offense.

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over 6 years ago

i think that that is inhumain i have been down that roaid and nothing is worth that i think if you have to be 18 to be an adualt and buy siggs but you cant do these same things as a minor so why should a kid get charged with an adault crime im 16 and have already been charged as an adault this comes straight froom dys

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