Trying Juveniles as Adults: Outline


The purpose of this essay is to determine whether juveniles should be tried as adults under the criminal court system. The age of a juvenile according to most laws is 18 years and below.

However, different states have different ages that define who a juvenile in; for instance, Wyoming have acknowledged 19 years to be the age of a juvenile, while states such as New York, Connecticut and North Carolina, one is recognized as a juvenile when he/she is under the age of 16.

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Knowing the age of a person suspected to be a juvenile is vital, because this will assist the authorities to decide which court the individual should be charged in. (Juvenile Law Par. 1).

Juvenile Court Systems and Laws

When it comes to determining whether a juvenile offender will be tried as an adult, juvenile court judges usually look at the seriousness of the alleged offense and the need to protect the community from the juvenile offender, the nature of the offense; whether it was violent, premeditated or aggressive, the amount of damage that resulted from the offense, whether the offense was committed against a person or property, the level of maturity of the juvenile offender, whether they have a criminal record or records of achievements and the likelihood of whether the offender can be rehabilitated by the juvenile criminal system (Cassel and Bernstein 42).

Juvenile laws have become very punitive in the recent past to deal with the increasing cases of juvenile delinquency around the world. The general argument that underlies these changes is that juvenile offenders should be held accountable for their criminal behavior by receiving punishments that are equivalent to their crime.

The juvenile laws have also suggested that the current juvenile justice systems do not offer any important psychological differences between juveniles and adults when considering their criminal responsibility. Despite their being declines in violent crimes committed by juveniles in America, all states have revised and adopted juvenile law policies that will be used to increase the prosecution of juveniles as adults (Free 159).

An example of a state that has adopted new juvenile policies is California which passed the Gang Violence and Youth Crime Prevention Act in March 2000. This act would see juveniles who are 14 years and over being tried as adults for any type of violent crime. This act gave state prosecutors the alternative of transferring juvenile cases that were violent or had gang involvement to the adult court without any judicial reviews (Free 159).

States that support the prosecution of juvenile offenders below the age of 14 in adult courts include Arizona who age limit is ten, Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland whose juvenile offender age is seven, Minnesota, Mississippi, Texas, South Dakota and Vermont (Hile 30).

Arguments For and Against Trying Juveniles in Adult Court Systems

Arguments that have arisen for trying juvenile offenders as adults are that violence committed by juveniles is viewed to be a serious problem and it should be dealt with in an effective and efficient manner. Other arguments are that juvenile courts are not effective when it comes to dealing with violence committed by juveniles.

The punishments and sentences that are meted out by juvenile courts are not usually appropriate to the kind of crime that has been committed (Cole and Smith 398). Other arguments that have arisen on trying children as adults are that the procedures used in waiving juvenile jurisdictions are usually problematic and cumbersome in many states in America. Criminal justice and law requires that any violent or heinous crimes committed by a person regardless of their age should be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

Despite these arguments, there are those who continue to propose that violent juvenile offenders should be dealt with by the juvenile court system. Many legal and juvenile experts have argued that trying juveniles as adults will only make things worse. Their main argument is that trying juveniles as adults means that the legal system has failed to consider their social and emotional development which is different from that of adults (Cole and Smith 398).

The arguments that have been raised for not trying juveniles as adults are that; the juvenile system has the appropriate mechanisms that can be used to deal with the social and emotional problems of juvenile offenders, general criminal laws around the world recognize that children have diminished capacities and responsibilities for their actions, meting out adult punishments to juvenile offenders robs them of their childhood and threatens their psychological development.

Such arguments have put pressure on legislators to lower the age of adulthood so that violent cases for serious juvenile offenders can be tried in the adult court system. This has however been viewed to be a futile exercise given that different states have different guidelines and procedures that are used to determine the appropriate age of a juvenile.

Some legal experts have argued that setting artificial guidelines to be used in determining whether a juvenile is an adult will restrict the ability of the court system to convict the juvenile offenders based on the type of crime they have committed (Hile 32).


The main argument that has been identified in the essay is that juvenile offenders who have mostly committed violent crimes should be tried and prosecuted in the adult criminal court system. This is mostly because the juvenile system does not provide the necessary punitive actions that can be used to deal with serious juvenile offenders.

Arguments in the essay have shown that to counter the juvenile system’s poor punishments, serious offenders should be tried in the adult court systems which have been viewed to be more punitive and strict when it comes to serious violent crimes

Works Cited

Cassel, Elaine and Bernstein, Douglas. Criminal behaviour, 2nd Edition, New Jersey,

US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate Publishers, 2007. Print.

Cole, George and Smith, Christopher. Criminal justice in America. California: Thomson Wadsworth Education Publishers, 2008. Print.

Free, Marvin. Racial issues in criminal justice: the case of African Americans.

Westport, US: Praeger Publishers, 2003. Print.

Hile, Kevin. Trial of juveniles as adults. United States: Chelsea House Publishers, 2003. Print.

Juvenile Laws. History, trying juveniles as adults, modern juvenile law, should the justice system be abolished? N.d., Web 10 November 2010,


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