Juvenile waivers involve a situation when a juvenile is transferred to an adult court and hence tried as an adult. This means that the juvenile is tried absent of all the protections offered to juveniles in the juvenile court. This may have very impactful effects on the life of the juvenile. A good example is that juvenile records are not a permanent stain on the juvenile’s life. These records are sealed the moment the juvenile turns 18. However, proceedings and outcomes in an adult court are a more permanent record. Irrespective of the age of the juvenile during the time, their case is waivered to an adult court proceeding and outcomes of their trials and hearings will stay permanently on their record, and this may affect their lives permanently. For example, they, in some instances, may be denied the right to vote or travel to certain countries, which have a no tolerance policy for people with any criminal record whatsoever (Myers, 2001). A juvenile waiver pretty much means a smeared record at a very young age and will definitely haunt the affected juvenile for the rest of his or her life. The reason being, it will reflect permanently on all records presented by the affected juvenile at any point in the future life.
There are three circumstances under which a juvenile court can transfer an ongoing case to an adult court. The first circumstance is known as judicial waiver. This instance stipulates that the juvenile court has the jurisdiction and capacity to transfer an ongoing juvenile case to an adult court. This decision might be influenced by the gravity of the offences the juvenile is on trial for. A judicial waiver can also take place based on the general record of the juvenile on trial. If the juvenile frequents the juvenile court, the judge might be of the opinion that the juvenile system is not doing enough or is not sufficient to rehabilitate this particular juvenile and turn him into a conforming and productive member of society. The juvenile court can therefore make the decision to transfer the juvenile case to an adult court. This is in the hope that the punitive and rehabilitative methods applied in the adult justice system will be more impactful and indeed succeed in the transformation and rehabilitation of the juvenile. This also serves as an example to other juveniles as to what awaits them in the very near future if they continue ignoring social norms of conformity, order, and peace. This is purely a decision of the court and is made independent of any other influencing factors that are not related to the case at hand or the general profile of the juvenile on trial. In other words no outside forces can influence the courts to make this decision. This decision is left purely at the discretion of the court in its interpretation of the case at hand in relation to the constitution the juvenile laws.
The second instance under which a juvenile case can be transferred to an adult court involves statutory laws and heir exclusion of the juvenile court from certain issues. This means that there are some cases, which due to their gravity cannot be heard and determined in a juvenile court. They just have to be transferred to an adult court, which has the appropriate machinery to handle these cases (Myers, 2001). A good example is that of a juvenile accused of committing a violent crime like first-degree murder. Due to the gravity and social implications of this case, it cannot be heard in a juvenile court. It has to be transferred to an adult court irrespective of the age of the juvenile at the time the accusations are leveled against them. A juvenile court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine cases of juveniles accused of violating firearm laws. This is an accusation with great implications not only for the juvenile but also for the entire society. Moreover, legal convention dictates that such an issue has to be waivered to an adult court for a proper hearing and a reasonable and just outcome to be arrived at. Another instance where the juvenile courts have to transfer cases to adult courts involves cases of juveniles accused of violations which involve the possession of drugs and narcotics and their distribution either to fellow juveniles or to the adult population (Fagan, Zimring, 2003). Cases involving drugs and narcotics are in most instances complicated, to say the least, as they may involve a much larger network and an even greater conspiracy and may have more notorious players behind the curtains pulling the strings. Such cases must therefore be transferred to an adult court, which is ever more than ready to deal with cases of that magnitude and ensure the relentless dispensation of justice.
This should not be confused as an attempt to undermine the powers of juvenile courts and their capacity to handle certain cases. Juvenile courts have the capability to effectively and accurately carry out their mandate. The way the judicial system structures its system is to simply demand that the juvenile courts simply waiver such cases to adult courts for hearing and trial. It is not about capability or competence of the juvenile court but more about the mandate as stipulated in the constitution and the judicial service act.
The third instance under which a juvenile case can be transferred from a juvenile court to an adult court involves the issue of current jurisdiction. This means that in certain states, there is a legal provision put in place, which gives the prosecutor the ability to file a case both in the adult court and in the juvenile court. This can be done if and only if the type of offences the accused is on trial for and the ages of the accused at the time of the trial meet certain criteria, which are recognized by law and allow this to be done. There are also provisions in the law, which protect the juvenile in this instance. These laws are in place to ensure that the juvenile is not tried and convicted in a juvenile court and then again tried and convicted in an adult court. In short, these laws ensure that the juvenile is not convicted twice for the same laws a situation, which is referred to as double jeopardy. Conviction of a person twice or more for the same offences would be in violation of their fifth amendment right and hence unconstitutional and therefore against the law (Zimring, 2005). In this instance, the decision on where to file the case of the juvenile rests with the prosecutor. The prosecutor might have the feeling or rather knowledge that an adult court will do a whole lot more than a juvenile court in terms of rehabilitating the juvenile on trial and also ensuring justice for the parties aggrieved by the juvenile. The prosecutor uses their best discretion as well as their sound knowledge of the law to determine which court is most suited for each particular case in which a juvenile is involved at which time the prosecutor proceeds to file the case at that particular court.
A juvenile waiver can however be contested, and a decision reached to try the juvenile as a juvenile in a juvenile court and not as an adult in an adult court. An instance that can cause a judicial waiver to be revoked is information, which is gathered from either psychological evaluation or psychiatric analysis and evaluation. If these evaluations determine that the juvenile is not in full control of their mental faculties, this can greatly affect the decision on a juvenile waiver irrespective of the age of the accused juvenile or the gravity of the accusations the particular juvenile is being accused of. Any anomalies in the proper synchronization of the mental capability and behavioral trends of the juvenile can prevent the juvenile’s case from being transferred to an adult court (Zimring, 2005). Another cause of appeal of a juvenile waiver is the intent and malice of the juvenile while committing the crimes that are alleged to have been committed by the juvenile. Before a case can be transferred to an adult court, it must be determined without the shadow of a doubt that the juvenile had the malice and intent matching that of an adult while committing the crimes they are on trial for. This simply means that if the juvenile acted as an adult would and they were fully aware of exactly what it is they were doing. It must also be determined that the actions of the juvenile which are responsible for the trial at hand have nothing to do with the age of the juvenile and their level of maturity. There must be clear evidence of adult tendencies in the actions of the juvenile and evidence that the juvenile had perfect understanding of exactly what it was that they were doing. It must also be made clear as to what were the intentions of the juvenile while performing these particular actions and exactly what the juvenile hoped to achieve as a result of their actions, which have resulted in their current predicament in the juvenile court.
According to IC 32-30-3 of the Indiana laws on juvenile waivers, a juvenile as young as fourteen years of age can be tried in an adult court and denied all the protections offered to a juvenile if the juvenile is on trial for heinous crimes or aggravated crimes or crimes which are part of a pattern of delinquent acts, which happen to be repetitive. In addition to the nature of the crimes committed, it must also be proven that the juvenile cannot be rehabilitated under the juvenile system of justice. Furthermore, it has to be in the best interest of the greater community and society as a whole to try this child as an adult. According to this provision, a child as young as ten years of age can be tried as a fully-grown adult. This is possible if the child faces accusations of first degree murder and it can be proven that it is indeed in the best interest of justice and the community that the child stand trial as an adult (Palmer, 2008).
The state of Indiana also has provisions in its laws, which ensure that the parents of the child on trial share the responsibility. However, this only happens in cases where a judicial waiver is not granted, and the child is tried in a juvenile court to the full completion of the case. A good example is IC 34-31-4-1, which states that the parent of the child is liable to a fee, which shall not exceed five thousand dollars in real time damages, which arise from damage to property or harm to a person either recklessly, intentionally or knowingly caused by the child of the parent (Palmer, 2008). However, this is applicable if and only if the parent either happens to be living with the child or is the one who has full custody of the child and therefore is responsible for the social conduct of the child. This is aimed at making parents have a sense of responsibility in the conduct of their children and play active roles in the behavior and development of their children. It is also aimed at curbing the number of parents who ignore the social conduct of their children and let their delinquency run rampant in the streets. This creates a greater sense of involvement of the parents in the activities and lives of their children. It also helps minimize instances of parental neglect, which often drives juveniles to delinquency, and a wide range of criminal activity, which could have all been avoided had the parent exercised more solid parental skills and had more involvement in the lives of their children.
Although it seems cruel to try a child as young as ten years of age as a full adult, judicial waivers are actually good in terms of rehabilitation of the child and protection of the community from the delinquent tendencies of the child. In instances where the juvenile justice system seems to be failing or not as effective as required it is necessary to expose the juvenile to the adult justice system in order to fully rehabilitate them. This is not a scare tactic aimed at invoking fear in the juveniles but a genuine attempt by society to rehabilitate them. In the process, this creates a better society in which these juveniles are productive members as opposed to being social outcasts who are branded the title bad news with no one in the community wanting anything to do with them or interact with them at any level whatsoever. With increasing trends in the number of delinquent activities and the frequency at which these activities are committed, perhaps it is necessary to expose these juveniles to the adult justice system early so that they are fully aware of the extent to which their activities are unacceptable. Moreover, they also know exactly what awaits them in the not so distant future if they maintain their current trend of disturbing activities, which are more often than not of a criminal nature.
Fagan, J., & Zimring, F. E. (2003). The changing borders of juvenile justice: transfer of adolescents to the criminal court. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Myers, D. L. (2001). Excluding violent youths from juvenile court the effectiveness of legislative waiver. New York: LFB Scholarly Pub. LLC.
Palmer, L. J. (2008). Encyclopedia of capital punishment in the United States (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co.
Zimring, F. E. (2005). American juvenile justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.