American Criminal System Research Paper

Treatment of Juvenile Offenders in the American Criminal System

While appraising the law as it appertains to minors, the American criminal system classifies crimes committed by minors as status offenses. Status offenses refer to a class of wrongdoings that only apply as such to juvenile offenders; they do not apply as such to crimes committed by adults (Raine, 1993). As a juvenile offender is arraigned in court, the key purpose is to reform and rehabilitate the minor in a way that is likely to reduce the reoccurrence of a repeat crime. The key goal, as stipulated in the US Constitution as it appertains to juvenile offenders is to reform and rehabilitate as opposed to retribution. The treatment of a first time juvenile offender is likely to be more lenient as opposed to that of a repeat offender.

Professor Annabel McKinley, a legal tutor at the University of Columbia, explains that juvenile courts virtually never incarcerate first time status offenders; usually, the courts incarcerate juvenile offenders for repeat offenses (Ryan et al, 1997). This is to say, for instance, that if a minor is caught peddling marijuana or in a habitual consumption of alcoholic beverages, the minor can be found delinquent under the auspices of a juvenile court system. In the US States of Georgia, New Orleans, and Washington DC, the law requires people aged below 18 years to be home before 11pm; those found out after this designated curfew are held at truancy centers before a guardian or parent can claim them (Raine, 1993).

The court will respect the rights of the accused; this has been an issue of contention since the Miranda case where the guilty defendant’s confession became inadmissible based on a technicality; they failed to notify the defendant of his Fifth Amendment right to assistance of counsel. In order to avoid a repeat of the same, US Courts treat the rights of the accused as a priority, which include the right not to self-incriminate by volunteering incriminatory evidence, the right to have an attorney present during questioning, and that the State would provide one in case the suspect cannot foot legal costs. The law unequivocally states that any suspect must be informed on this basic procedures failure to which the case would be thrown out under the auspices of the decision in Miranda.

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