Running Head: Juveniles Tried as Adults

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The purpose of this study is to determine the factors that contribute to a juvenile being transferred to adult court and if they are competent to stand trial. This study will analyze different aspects that contribute to the transfer of a juvenile and whether transfer is a good solution to solving juvenile crimes. The importance of this research is to determine whether or not juveniles should be transferred to an adult court based on their maturity level or competency, age the crime occurred, and the type of crime they committed. Certain crimes show an increase and decrease in recidivism rates. There is also evidence that juveniles are not fully developed like adults are and should be taken into consideration on determining their sentence.


During the 1990s, the juvenile crime rate was at an all-time high. The solution to the high crime rate was a revision of the legislation to transfer juveniles to adult court. This was the start of the “get tough on crime” era. With the revision of the legislation, juveniles could be charged as an adult for committing an adult crime. Transferring a juvenile to adult court is used as a deterrent for crime. It allows the courts to administer harsher punishments to juveniles that they couldn’t receive in the juvenile court system. Juveniles are granted more rights and protections by going to trial in a juvenile court, unlike adult court which takes those rights and protections away. Many aspects are considered in order to transfer a youth to adult court such as age, crime, laws (depending on the state), competency, and the type of waiver. Juvenile courts were made to treat juveniles differently than adults due to their development and other aspects. As a solution to the increased crime rates, the sanctions got more serious. These aspects play a vital role in the outcome of a juvenile’s case. T

he importance of this research is to determine if adult court is suitable for a juvenile offender depending on the different factors. Waivers It is important to understand the various types of waivers used in the United States. There are many types of waivers used in the United States, and each state has their own set of waivers they use. The waivers used are judicial, prosecutorial, and legislative waivers. Each state has the choice of which waivers they use. Jordan and Myers (2011) demonstrations several reasons for waivers including an increased punishment, the ability to transfer the most serious of crimes and they allow the juvenile court systems to focus on juveniles more capable of treatment or being amended. According to Jordan and Myers (2011), research shows that transferring a juvenile has no effect on recidivism or that a transferred youth shows more recidivism than a non-transferred youth.

A juvenile can be transferred to adult court by the discretion on the court judge. This is considered a judicial waiver and is the most common type of waiver. A juvenile can be transferred to adult court to exclude the protections of the juvenile courts. Normally, a judicial waiver is used when the crime committed was serious or the juvenile has a criminal record. In the United States, a criterion is taken into consideration in order to use a judicial waiver such as the age of the juvenile and the type of crime they committed. These features help determine and aid the decision process. A prosecutor can waiver a juvenile’s case to adult court. This type of waiver is the prosecutorial waiver and it gives the power to the prosecutor instead of the judge.

The prosecutorial waiver is not very common or popular. Case in point, “A possible negative consequence in jurisdictions that have given prosecutors the discretion to transfer juvenile to adult court, as suggested by one study in Florida, is that Black youth were over twice as likely as White youth to be waived to criminal court” (Bang et al., 2014, p.11). The prosecutorial waiver is utilized less often than the judicial and legislative waiver and is the most controversial waiver because of the fact that it gives the prosecutor authority to waiver a juvenile. Certain crimes are automatically transferred to adult court because of the type of crime that it is, bypassing the juvenile court. This type of waiver is the legislative waiver. There are two types of legislative waivers. The first is offense exclusion and it excludes certain types of crimes from the juvenile court jurisdiction. The second type is the offender exclusion which excludes certain offenders that have appeared in juvenile court several times and continue to appear in the justice system. The offender exclusion means that the offender is not amendable, and the treatment provided with a juvenile court will not be helpful for the offender. Some states use the reverse waiver.

This type of waiver allows the criminal court to accept a case or transfer it to the juvenile court. This doesn’t mean that a case that was transferred to adult court can be appeal immediately. Youth have the ability to petition their case and have it transferred to the juvenile court. Research shows many different effects of transferring juveniles to adult court. Some research show there is a criminogenic effect, deterrent effect, and a null effect. According to Augustyn and Mcgloin (2018), transferring a juvenile has many consequences including a criminal record which can impact them in the future when applying to job. They can feel like they are being mistreated which leads to subsequent offending. In juvenile court systems, juveniles are protected, and their records are kept private unlike an adult court system. This can affect them in the long run by providing disadvantages in the work force. Augustyn and Mcgloin (2018) show that incapacitation interferes with a juvenile’s education, unlike a youth with a community sentence that can continue on with their education.

Competency to Stand Trial There has been research to determine whether a juvenile has the competency to stand trial. Before we begin, it’s best to get an understanding of the definition of competency in term of the court system. For instance, “In the United States, to be considered competent to stand trial in criminal court, a defendant must be capable of understanding the charges against him or her, be able to consult with his/her attorney, and understand and participate in legal proceedings” (Mayzer et al., 2009, p. 786). Many juveniles are transferred to adult court. There are approximately 200,000 youths transferred per year to the adult courts and the juvenile is assessed by a mental health professional to assess their competency to stand trial. There are factors that are assessed by a mental health professional.

These factors are the competency to stand the trial, their brain development, and their cognitive skills. Along with those factors they are assessed to see if they understand their charges, the procedures that occur in trial, mental illness history, medical history, retardation, and emotional maturity. For instance, there are concerns that a juvenile will confess to a crime that they have not committed because of the interrogation process. For instance, “Although older adolescents begin to perform more similarly to adults on a number of cognitive tasks, they may still make decisions that vary from adults’ due to social/emotional immaturity” (Mayzer et al., 2009, p.780).

Research suggests that some juveniles may perform like an adult, they still have immaturity in decision making aspects of their lives. According to Mayer et al. (2009) age is a factor in assessing the development of youth and that brain development is linked to puberty. Age of a Juvenile Studies show that age affects the sentencing process and can lead to juveniles receiving a longer sentence. Kurlychek and Johnson (2010) shows that transferred juveniles received a sentence that were 80% more severe than their young adult counterparts especially for violent crimes. Sentencing in adult courts are more severe than juvenile courts. Juvenile courts also focus on the rehabilitation and treatment of youth and adult court focuses on incapacitation and retribution. One of the main issues with the transfer process is the equal treatment of juvenile offenders in the adult court system. Kurlychek and Johnson (2010) states that juveniles processed through the adult court system are more likely to recidivate compared to similar offenders in the juvenile justice system.

The risk of recidivism is higher for those transferred to adult court. Sentencing and Punishment Many states have implemented juvenile waivers as a sanction to reduce crime. As seen above, age plays a role in the sentencing and punishment of juveniles transferred to adult court. With the increased crime rate in the 1990s the punishments became more serious. Case in point, “The early descriptive research on juvenile transfer and punishment certainty (i.e., conviction) reports high conviction rates (between 76% and 96%) among transferred offenders” (Jordan and Myers, 2011, p.249). In addition, non-whites are more likely to receive a higher sentencing than their white counterparts. In comparison of gender, males have a longer processing than females. Sanctions are more effective in reducing recidivism when they are given in a progressed manner. Redding (2016) discusses that sanctions should become more intense as the offender continues to offend and becomes a hazard to the community.

In other words, skipping sanctions and sentencing the more serious sanction is less effective in reducing recidivism. This could lead to a feeling of being mistreated or unfairness that can lead to reoffending. According to Augustyn and Loughran (2017), there is a lack of knowledge of the outcomes of juveniles that are transferred to adult courts. Some research shows that waivers show a reduction in recidivism and other research shows the exact opposite. Conclusions Since the 1990s policies have reformed to provide harsher sanctions on youth because of the increased crime rates. Juvenile crime rates have been in decline since the changes in policies, but the policies have not changed to reflect that outcome. There are numerous research studies on the outcomes of transferring a juvenile to the adult courts. There are mixed outcomes showing the reduction and increase of recidivism.

Sanctions should be thought out and be handed out on a case by case basis. Many factors contribute to the outcome of the juvenile and the likelihood of reoffending. Juvenile courts were made to treat juveniles differently than adults. After the crime rate increased, juveniles were starting to get treated as adults. One of the main focuses of the juvenile courts is to treat and rehabilitate juveniles that are able to be amended and the juveniles that were not able to be amended were sent to adult courts to be dealt with. Some of the main concerns with waivers is the treatment of youth and if they are being treated equally, the competency of the juvenile, and the harsher sentencing they are given once they are transferred.

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Running Head: Juveniles Tried as Adults. (2020, Aug 21). Retrieved December 4, 2023 , from

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