Whether juveniles have a right to a jury trial in juvenile court is a complicated question. The answer is yes in some states and no in others. The right to trial by jury is a constitutional right, but state governments are not required to provide this right to juveniles.
In a juvenile court, a judge decides the case. The prosecutor must convince the judge that the defendant committed the offense. The judge will then decide the sentence. If the defendant is charged with a serious crime such as murder or a rape, he or she may be transferred to adult court through a judicial waiver process. In some cases, a judge may even decide the case based on evidence gathered in the juvenile court.
In juvenile cases, a preponderance of evidence is used to determine the truthfulness of a charge. This is a lower standard of proof than the reasonable doubt standard used in civil cases. The judge must decide whether a juvenile is guilty or not by preponderance of evidence. A juvenile defendant’s preponderance of evidence must be greater than any other party’s in order to be convicted of the charged crime.
However, juvenile courts have a controversial constitutional basis. The judiciary has questioned the original justifications for withholding the right to a jury trial from juveniles. In the early 1900s, the judiciary decided that juveniles could not be convicted of a crime without proof. They were not mature enough to handle the trial process and they were not protected from self-incrimination. In some cases, the judge was actually the prosecutor. This was one of the reasons why the court decided to deny juveniles a jury trial in juvenile courts.
The Supreme Court has ruled that juveniles do not have a constitutional right to a jury trial in juvenile court. In McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be adjudicated delinquent without proof. The Supreme Court also found that the prosecution had a constitutional right to cross-examine witnesses.
However, the Supreme Court did not forbid states from providing juvenile defendants with jury trials. The Court did not address the issue of other juvenile pre-trial procedures. In other words, juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial, but in certain circumstances, their right may be waived. The process for a judicial waiver is based on the seriousness of the crime, the juvenile’s criminal history, or the nature of the offense.
A juvenile’s right to a jury trial may be waived by a federal district court or by a state court. The waiver of the right to a jury trial must be in writing and the defendant must know of the waiver. A waiver is not automatically valid, but it is usually acceptable. If the juvenile defendant is not able to afford an attorney, the court will usually appoint a public defender.
Juvenile courts are meant to rehabilitate the youth. They may not be able to participate in community involvement and the conditions of juvenile facilities may be as harsh as prisons.