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Juvenile Waivers: Pros & Cons

Instructor: Ken Klamar

I have been a certified police officer since 1993 and have a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice Administration. I also have obtained my Master's degree in Criminal Behavior Analysis from the University of Cincinnati.

In this lesson, you will learn several of the pros and cons of transferring juveniles to adult court. You will learn about several means of transfer, or waiver, and how the treatment of juveniles can have a positive or negative effect.

Juvenile Waiver

A woman walks alone on a sidewalk heading back to her apartment after an afternoon of shopping. Ahead, she sees a group of people loitering on the side of the street. The woman pays no attention as she walks past the group. Suddenly she is struck in the back of her head by an object. The blow knocks the woman to the ground and sends her packages flying. The woman clasps her purse tight to her body in an effort to shield it from being taken. The group violently struggles with the woman until they free the purse from her grip, and run away. The woman suffers a broken wrist and several scrapes and bruises as a result of the attack. The attackers are later apprehended; their ages range from 10 to 13 years of age.

Most people who would have to make a decision on punishment for the above scenario would likely say 'throw the book at them.' This example shows a violent crime that is perpetrated by a youthful offender. The juvenile court's main focus is on rehabilitation. The thought is that a juvenile who is still developing, can learn from his mistakes and become a productive member of society. But in some instances, a harsh punishment may be the answer.

Juvenile waiver is a process by which a juvenile case is transferred to adult court. Once there, the juvenile is tried as an adult and would be subject to the same punishments as an adult offender. There are several ways that a juvenile can be transferred to adult court. A juvenile can be transferred by the sole discretion of the judge, known as a judicial waiver. Legislative execution takes the guesswork out of transfer and automatically transfers certain offenses based on their seriousness. Another method is to put the decision to transfer in the hands of the juvenile prosecutor; which leaves the judge out the decision making process. Regardless of the waiver method, there are several pros and cons to a juvenile being tried as an adult.

Waiver Pros

When a person commits a violent crime, there is a duty by the justice system to protect. If a violent person is allowed to return to the streets, there is a chance that the person could re-offend. This is also true with juveniles. A juvenile who has the propensity for violence should not be allowed the opportunity to re-offend. When the juvenile is in custody, there is little risk that he could hurt someone else. There is an obligation to protect the community, and by trying the juvenile in an adult court, there are stronger sentencing options.

Many juveniles also look at the juvenile court as a 'softer' court with fewer punishment options. This is partly true. By waiving the juvenile from the juvenile system, into the adult system, this process alone may have an impact on the child. As mentioned earlier, the juvenile court's mission is rehabilitation. A child that goes through a waiver process, and sees the harsh punishment that could be imposed, might be enough to prevent the child from re-offending.

Adult criminal court is focused on preventing a person from re-offending. Whether this is done by stiff fines or confinement, the purpose is to keep offenders away from the general public. A second goal of the adult court is to deter would-be offenders from committing crimes in the first place. If a juvenile is tried in adult court, and his or her peers see the seriousness of his or her actions, this may prevent them from offending as well.

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