Juvenile Cases That Have Made Great Contributions In Development of Juvenile Justice


            In order for one to obtain a clear understanding of the current conflicts that are inherent in the juvenile justice system, it is inevitable for one to understand the process and changes that have occurred in the juvenile law since its inception, (Lawyershop.com, 2014). The juvenile justice system in the USA started in 1800s and was aimed at re-inventing the system in order to develop policies that govern the youth offenders in the country. From then on, a number of laws have been enacted and currently the juvenile justice system almost resembles that of mature people. A number of juvenile cases have made great contributions to the juvenile justice system in the USA.  These cases include Kent vs. United States, Breed vs. Jones and In re Winship.

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Kent vs. United States

Kent v. United States is one of the landmark cases in the country that led to a number of important developments in the juvenile justice system. The case took place in the Supreme Court between Morris Kent, aged 16 and the state. The minor was on probation having admitted guilty of rape and other related offenses.

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Morris Kent’s attorney filed a case that requested a hearing on the issue of jurisdiction. However, the court affirmed that it was only possible after a full investigation had been done and it declined to make a ruling. Kent’s attorney appealed on the validity of waiver that had been issued on Kent and the case was set to be heard in the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the waiver was indeed invalid and the attorney should have been allowed to scrutinize all the records, (Ncjrs.gov, 2014). Additionally the court ruled that a written statement about waiver should have been provided.

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Although the Supreme Court’s ruling initially applied on the D.C courts, its impact were so widespread that it raised some challenges regarding parens patriae. In earlier court rulings, protection clause of the 14th amendment had been interpreted to mean that some people, depending on their classes, could receive less due process if the “compensating benefit” was warranted by their lesser protection. This meant that although courts provided a lot of concern for the youth offenders, they accorded them less due process. The Supreme Court decision was a good postulation that provided for revolution of the juvenile justice system in order to provide more for youth offenders.

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In re Winship

Samuel Winship, aged 12, was charged for stealing $112 from a woman in a store. Although the other workers in the store refuted the evidence from one worker that Winship had stolen the cash, citing the fact that the worker was not in a position to see the event, the court operating under civil standard of “preponderance of evidence” sentenced Samuel, (Wolcott, 2012).

The Newyork juvenile court had earlier accepted that there was “reasonable doubt” in Winship’s case and this made the minor’s attorney to file a case that sought to find whether “ proof beyond reasonable doubt” applied to both adults and juveniles. The Supreme Court argued that “reasonable doubt” should apply to both adults and juveniles, (Wolcott, 2012).

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This became a landmark case and it quashed earlier decision by lower courts, which made their judgments based on the ideas of “saving” the juveniles rather than “punishing” them.

Breed vs. Jones

Gary Jones, aged 17 appeared in Los Angeles juvenile courts and was subsequently charged with armed robbery. He was adjudicated delinquent; however, during disposition hearing the judge transferred the case to criminal court after waiving jurisdiction, (Kaye, 2011). However, Jones’s attorney filed writ of habeas corpus arguing that the transfer of the case to criminal justice courts violated double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment. The court denied him the petition and it argued that it did not amount to jeopardy since the juvenile adjudication was not a “trial”.

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However, upon appeal, the Supreme Court cited the adjudication as amounting to trial since the juvenile had violated criminal statute, (Kaye, 2011). In effect, the court cited that the youth offender had been placed in jeopardy. This case is important in juvenile justice in the US since it provided clear definitions and applications of jeopardy rights in juvenile criminal cases. The Supreme Court justices further clarified that jeopardy applies at adjudication hearing when the first evidence is presented in court.

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            Juvenile justice system has been under a number of conflicts and the above landmark supreme court rulings have had great impact on the juvenile justice. The cases have provided a clear application of juvenile law to youth offenders in the US.

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