Dr. Charity Lanier
Juvenile justice in Virginia is based on the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which was passed in 1974 by US Congress. It stated that all states should provide the best rehabilitation for people who are too young to bear criminal responsibility for their actions (US Dept. of Justice, 1974). The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice has a set values statement, which determines the attitude to juveniles in criminal justice and ...view middle of the document...
In Virginia, the age limit is 14 (CV, 2009). In other US states, it varies from 14 to 18. This decision support responsibility and call for obedience from juveniles. On the other hand, 14 year old teenager sometimes is not ready to understand that the violation of the law leads to serious punishment. Especially, when there is a huge discrepancy between the status of such an offender in the society (a child) and in the court (an adult).
The cases of juveniles are transferred to criminal court using the multiple mechanism of transfer. This multiple mechanism allows covering most cases of juvenile crimes, which could be treated as felony crimes. All laws regarding Juvenile transfer can be divided into 3 main groups: judicial waiver laws, concurrent jurisdiction of prosecutorial discretion laws. In Virginia, most transfer laws are discretionary (VDJJ, 2013). It means that each case is judged individually. However, there is a set of cases when the transfer is mandatory. In Virginia, juvenile offenders, who are at least 14 years old, can be tried in criminal court if they committed felony crimes. First of all, parents or any other responsible people should be informed about the arrest and accusation. Then, juvenile court decides whether the crime omitted by juvenile offender merits adult punishment or not. Then, juvenile has to be proved to be competent to stand to be tried. It the crime and offender meet the criteria of the court; they are considered to be not proper to be heard in juvenile court and are sent to criminal court.
Preliminary hearing of juvenile court is required if a juvenile offender is accused of murder or aggravated wounding (VC, Ch. 18.2, 2009). Transfer hearing is required if a juvenile offender is accused of murder, malicious wounding, felonious injuries by mob, malicious poisoning, attack of an enforcement officer etc. The whole list is included in § 18.2 of the Code of Virginia. The decision of the juvenile court depends on the following factors: the age of the offender, offense and its character, the term of punishment and the efficacy of the juvenile system to provide proper rehabilitation. Previous contact with law enforcement system matter as well. Physical, emotional and mental development is considered by the court (McGarvey & Waite, 2000). If any of the requirements above are ignored, the juvenile cannot be transferred to criminal court. In case of blended courts, criminal court takes responsibility for sentencing.
According to Redding and Hensel (2001) judge education influences his or her decision. Researchers state that objectivity of decision cannot be fully realized because judge's personal experience and common belief about juvenile offenders in the district where the case is heard are two factors, which make the decision subjectivity. Steinberg & Piquero (2010) state, that it is quite easy to manipulate public opinion when it comes to juvenile sentencing and transfer decisions....