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The Effect Of Landmark Supreme Court Cases On Juvenile Justice Essay, Research Paper

4 February 2000

The Effect of Landmark Supreme Court Cases on Juvenile Justice

Thesis: In the past juvenile offenders were held to the same standards and sanctions as adult offenders. The juvenile justice system has changed in the past 100 years as result of several case laws.

I. Introduction

II. The first juvenile courts.

A. Parens Patriae

B. Uniform Juvenile Court Act

III. Kent v. United States

A. Brief

B. Result

IV. In Re Gault

A. Brief

B. Result

V. In Re Winship

A. Brief

B. Result

VI. McKeiver v. Pennsylvania

A. Brief

B. Result

VII. Breed v. Jones

A. Brief

B. Result

VIII. Schall v. Martin

A. Brief

B. Result

IX. Conclusion

Directed Study

4 February 2000

The Effect of Landmark Supreme Court Cases on Juvenile Justice

Three women simultaneously have their purse snatched on three different streets. The ages of the offenders are 12, 16 and 19 years. Police arrest all three. Will all three offenders be processed in the same manner? The answer is no. In the past, juvenile offenders were held to the same standards and sanctions as adult offenders. The juvenile justice system has changed in the past years as a result of several landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions (Samaha 593).

During the England common law period, a child became an adult at age seven. Juveniles who violated the law were subject to the same punishments as adults. The punishment for violating the law included whipping, mutilation, banishment, and death. In the 1500?s, England passed statues known as poor laws. Poor laws provided overseers to govern destitute and neglected children as servants. Children were forced to work as adults in agricultural, trade, or domestic service. Sweatshops, mines, and factories were the three most common work places for children (Senna 622).

In the 1600?s and 1700?s the Elizabethan poor laws became the model for dealing with juveniles. These laws created a system of church wardens and overseers who identified delinquent and neglected children then put them to work. The Justice of the Peace gave the overseers and church wardens the consent needed in order to take control of the children (Territo 686).

One of the first courts during the Middle Ages to have some jurisdiction over juveniles were Chancery Courts. These courts normally had concerns only over property rights. However, the authority of these court extended to the guardianship of the children. These courts were founded on the idea that children were under the protection of the King. This was the idea that popularized the Latin word ?parens patriae?. ?Parens patriae? referred to the role of the King as the father of his country. This concept was probably used by the English kings to justify their intervention in the lives of children (Stinchcomb 504).

In 1899 Illinois passed the Juvenile Court Act that founded a uniformed juvenile system that eventually became the first model for other states to follow. By 1945, all states had a juvenile court act within their constitutions (Feld 11). The Uniform Juvenile Court Act was drafted in 1968 by the National Conference of Commissioners. The Uniform Juvenile Court Act was developed to encourage uniformity procedures, purpose, and scope (Cox 71).

The U.S. Supreme case that significantly changed the lower courts procedures in delinquency cases was Kent v. U.S. in 1966. Morris Kent was a 14 year old juvenile who was arrested in Washington D.C. for burglary in 1959. Kent was placed on probation and released to his mother. Two years later a woman was raped and robbed in a Washington D.C. apartment. Finger prints found at the scene matched Kent?s prints that were on file. Kent was 16 years old and was still under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court (Schmalleger 544).

Kent was taken into custody and confessed to police about the offense. Kent also confess to several other offenses. While Kent was in custody, psychological evaluations were conducted on him. The professionals that conducted the test determined Kent to be a victim of psychopathology. The juvenile court judge in the case did not confer with Kent?s mother. Kent?s attorney was also left out of any conference. The judge transferred Kent to adult court where he was subsequently convicted. Kent?s lawyers appealed ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court (Rubin 146).

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court and ordered that adequate hearings be provided for juveniles that were being considered for transfer to adult court. The court also ruled that juveniles were entitled to an attorney during the hearings, and the attorney would have full access to any records of the juvenile. The Kent decision was the beginning of due process in juvenile justice (Rubin 146).

Perhaps the most influential U.S. Supreme Court decision on the juvenile justice system was the Gault decision. In 1964 Gerald Gault and his friend, Ronald Lewis, were arrested in Arizona for illegally making obscene phone calls. Gault was on probation at the time for an earlier offense. When Gault and Lewis were taken into custody, Gault?s parents were not notified. Gault?s parents later learned about the incident but could not get any information from authorities (Schmalleger 544-545).

During the initial hearing, Gault?s statement was the only evidence presented. The juvenile officer testified as to what the complainant alleged. The complainant was not present and Gault was not represented by counsel. Gault admitted to making the phone call, but added that his friend, Lewis, did all the talking. During a second hearing, Gault?s mother requested that the complainant be present. The judge denied the request. Gault was adjudicated delinquent and remanded to a industrial school until his 21st birthday (Inciardi 696).

On appeal, eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court, Gault?s attorneys argued that his due process of the law was denied. The appeal focused on six issues: Right to counsel, notice of charges, right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, protection against self incrimination, right to a transcript, and right to appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gault?s favor on four of the six issues. The court did not agree with the right to a transcript and the right to an appeal (Inciardi 696).

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that transcripts were not produced in an adult misdemeanor case, therefore not considered a constitutional right. The court also ruled against the right to an appeal. The court said that the right to an appeal was granted at the state level (Inciardi 696).

Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt must be proved in an adult criminal court. However, in a juvenile court, a 12-year-old boy named Winship was taken into custody for illegally entering a locker and stealing money from a purse. A New York Family Court judge found Winship delinquent based only on the preponderance of the evidence. Preponderance of the evidence is the same standard used in civil courts. Winship?s punishment was 18 months in a training school that could be extended to his 18th birthday if the court felt it necessary.

The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that allegations of delinquency must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. The court allowed the continued use of the lower standard, preponderance of the evidence, in adjudicating juveniles for status offenses (Cox 276).

The Guilt and Winship cases extended several constitutional rights to juveniles but not all. In the case McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, Joseph Mckeiver, age 16, was taken into custody and charged with robbery, larceny, and receiving stolen property. Mckeiver was with 20 or 30 other juveniles who took 25 cents from three boys. He had no previous record and had a good established work history. Mckeiver?s attorney requested a jury trial. His request was denied by the judge. Mckeiver was eventually adjudicated a delinquent and sent to a youth development center (Feld 139-140).

After several appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case and held the lower court?s decision. The U.S. Supreme court said it would be a mistake to require juries in a juvenile trial. Juvenile trials are fact finding functions, not to determined guilt or innocence. However, the decision did not prohibit jury trials in the juvenile justice system. Certain states do allow jury trials for juveniles (Feld 139-140).

The fifth and fourteenth Amendments protect citizens from double jeopardy. But does the double jeopardy extend to the juvenile adjudication? In the 1971 case Breed v. Jones, a complaint was filed against Jones alleging that he committed robbery. During the adjudicated hearing, Jones was declared delinquent. At a later dispositional hearing, Jones was determined to be unfit for treatment as a juvenile and transferred to adult court. As an adult, Jones was convicted of first degree robbery (Schmalleger 547).

Jones? attorney appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that Jones was put in jeopardy at the Juvenile Court adjudicatory hearing. The decision was reversed and Jones? conviction was vacated. A juvenile adjudicated delinquent cannot be convicted in adult court for the same offense (Schmalleger 547).

In the case Schall v. Martin, Gregory Martin, age 14, was arrested in New York in 1984. He was charged with robbery and weapons possession and held for two weeks in a secured detention facility until his hearing. A New York statue, the prevented detention law, allowed the two week detention of Martin because authorities felt he was a continued delinquency risk. After his hearing Martin was adjudicated delinquent (Wrobleski 572).

The case was eventually appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on the claim that the New York detention law had denied Martin?s freedom before he was convicted. Martin?s attorney claimed that Martin?s Fourteenth Amendment right was violated. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the New York law. The court ruled that states had a legitimate interest in preventing future delinquency (Wrobleski 572).

In conclusion, there are differences in the adult and juvenile justice systems. In the juvenile system there is not a major concern placed on the legal issues of guilt or innocence, but more on the interest of the child. Another difference is the fact that the juvenile system focuses on treatment rather than punishment. The courts have created a unique justice system for juveniles. The courts have taken in consideration the needs of the juveniles while trying to offer society reasonable protection. Supreme Court decisions certainly have changed the juvenile system from what was during the Middle Ages. (Schmalleger 548).

Cox, Steven M., and John J. Conrad, eds. Juvenile Justice A

Guide to Practice and Theory. Madison: Brown and Benchmark,


Fled, Barry C.,ed. Reading in Juvenile Justice Administration.

New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Inciardi, James A., ed. Criminal Justice. Texas: Harcourt Brace

and Company, 1993.

Rubin, Ted H., Ed. Juvenile Justice and Law. New York: Random

House Inc., 1985.

Samaha, Joel, ed. Criminal Justice. New York: West Publishing

Co., 1991.

Schmalleger, Frank. Criminal Justice Today. New Jersey: Simon

and Schuster Company, 1997.

Senna, Joseph J., and Larry J. Siegel, eds. Introduction to

Criminal Justice. New York: West Publishing Co., 1990.

Stinchcomb, Jeanne, and Vernon Fox. Introduction to Corrections.

New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1999.

Territo, Leonard, James B. Halsted, and Max L. Bromley, eds.

Crime and Justice in America. Minnisota: West Publishing

Co., 1995.

Wrobleski, Henry, and K?ren M. Hess, eds. Introduction to Law

Enforcement and Criminal Justice. Minnisota: West

publishing co., 1993.

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