Juvenile Court and How it Works
In the American justice system, it is not only adults who can be judged and get sentences. A juvenile trial is a very unique process in which sentences are given to those who have not reached the age of majority. These types of trials take place in a juvenile court, and it is important to know how juveniles are tried in the U.S. and how they receive sentences.
What is Juvenile Court?
A juvenile court, AKA as young offender's court, passes judgment for crimes that were committed by adolescents or children. Under U.S. law, people who have not reached the age of majority who are accused of crimes are treated differently than adults who have been accused of crimes. If a juvenile has been found guilty of committing a certain crime, they (and is certain cases – their legal guardians as well) will receive a sentence that may include juvenile probation, juvenile detention, juvenile rehabilitation, etc.
Juvenile Crime Rates and Trends
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, that analyzes FBI data, there were 2,553 arrests per every 100,000 people between the ages 10-17 in 2016. Compared to the mid-1990s, there was a 70% drop in youth crime rates. The type of crime that was on the most prominent decline is violent crimes – juveniles in the United States have been committing less violent crimes, such as murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery.
The peak in murders committed by juveniles was in 1996, where there were 12.8 arrests for murder per every 100,000 people between the ages of 10-17. In 2012, there was a notable drop in the murder juvenile murder rate, and it reached 2.2 arrests per every 100,000 people between the ages of 10-17.
Robberies committed by youth reached a peak in 1994, where there were 282 arrests per every 100,000 people between the ages of 10-17. There was a 70% decrease in the number of youth robbery arrests, reaching 83.7 arrests per every 100,000 people between the ages of 10-17.
Aside from violent crimes, there was also a decrease in the number of property crimes committed by adolescents. There was a peak in the number of property crimes (motor vehicle theft, larceny-theft, burglary, and arson) between 1988 to 1991. During that time period, there were 2,500 arrests per every 100,000 people between the ages of 10-17. This number has declined since, and in 2016, the property crime rate among adolescents dropped to 551.1 crimes per every 100,000 people between the ages of 10-17.
What is the most common crime committed by juveniles? The most common types of crimes that adolescents commit is of a non-violent nature; larceny-theft is the most common crime, which reached 401.3 per every 100,000 juveniles in 2016. The second most common crime committed by youth is assault, with 382.3 assaults per every 100,000 juveniles. The third most common crime among adolescents is drug abuse, with a rate of 295.6 arrests per every 100,000 juveniles.
What is a Juvenile Court Case?
When a juvenile is apprehended by police, they may end up in juvenile court based on the crime they were accused of. If the case is referred to a court, a juvenile court intake officer or a prosecutor will handle it. The legal representative that takes over a juvenile court case can decide to solve the matter informally, dismiss the case, or file charges against the juvenile defendant.
When handling juvenile cases, one must consider several important factors, such as the juvenile's age, the severity of the crime he/she was accused of, their social history, the juvenile's past legal records (if one exists), the severity of the offense, etc.
What Happens Next?
Every year, about 55% of all juvenile cases go through a formal proceeding, meaning 55% of all juvenile cases are resolved in juvenile court cases. While there is no juvenile jail, there is juvenile prison, also known as a youth rehabilitation center.
In the U.S., there are several juvenile rehabilitation programs that are available to youth/children who have been convicted of committing a crime. The first type of youth rehabilitation program is one where juveniles are returned to their communities and assigned a rehabilitation plan.
Juveniles who may pose a threat to the society or themselves are sent to juvenile detention centers, and there are two types of such facilities:1. Secure Detention Centers – facilities where juveniles are held for short periods of time until their trial begins. Also, juveniles are sent to secure detention centers, also known as 'juvenile hall", to wait for placement decisions and to be assigned to a long-term facility. The purpose of such facilities is to ensure juveniles will appear in juvenile court, or other places where their sentence will be given.
2. Secure Confinement Centers – centers where juveniles are committed by the court. Secure facilities are where juveniles are in the custody of a correctional facility for the amount of time they were sentenced. The purpose of secure confinement centers is not to punish juveniles, but rehabilitate them so they can return to society without posing a threat. Such centers provide juveniles health programs, recreation programs, education programs, counseling, and more.
Juvenile trial and juvenile rehabilitation are both an important part of the American justice system, and they are meant to rehabilitate youth in the U.S. Each year tens of thousands of juveniles are taken into custody and based on the crime they were accused of, sent to the proper facility for the determined amount of time.
What is Juvenile Residential Placement?
Residential placement refers to facilities where juveniles are held for 24 hours a day. There are several types of such facilities, including group homes, detention centers, correctional facilities, shelters, and reform rooms. The past two decades have demonstrated a decrease in the number of juveniles who are in youth detention centers.
In 2011, there were approximately 62,000 youths in residential placement, compared to 107,637 in 1995. The drop in the number of adolescent incarceration has been seen throughout the country – in the district of Columbia, as well as 44 U.S. states.