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TRYING JUVENILES AS ADULTS

Updated on August 4, 2014

Why Juveniles Commit Crime

A court's ruling is based on various factors. First is the ethical weight, which then bears on courts’ interpretations the constitution. This is important in cases involving juveniles. Should they be tried as adults when they commit capital offences?

Scientific and sociological research shows that juveniles lack an equal capacity of maturity and a sense of responsibility as compared to adults. In nearly all arrays of reckless behavior, the percentages that were juveniles took large precedence. Underage civilians are banned from numerous things, like drinking and driving. Their lack of maturity and responsibility is the reason given as to why laws prohibit them from voting, or serving on juries.

When Juveniles Commit Capital Offences

The law prevents them from marrying prior to parental consent. The same principles are thus applicable when dealing with capital offences committed by juveniles. More so because they have higher susceptibility to negative influence and pressures, such as peer pressure. Compared to adults, they have a less control experience with their environment.

In addition to these, juveniles lack equal capacity and freedom to adults when it comes to making an escape from a criminogenic setting.

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National Consensus and Peoples’ Opinion on Juveniles and Criminal Justice

There is the additional 'national consensus' notion. The fact is that states are applying this penalty with decreased frequency. Between 1989 and February 2005, only six US states had executed offenders for acts committed whilst they were juveniles. This was in spite of the fact that twenty states had the penalty in their laws. Only the states of Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia had carried it out in the entire decade before the ruling.

There were states that had abolished the penalty. This created controversy with parties seeking the concept of national consensus to be a basis for the re-interpretation of previous rulings.

Courts, Juveniles and the Society

By the decency standard that is ever changing, courts must give attention the changes that take place over time in social values. These they must then apply to law and ethical-related interpretations.

However, what is the practicability of using national consensus in law interpretation? In addition, if it is used, what should the courts use to determine this national consensus? The court basing this on the manner in which legislation on the death penalty has taken place through the states is deemed by some not to be credible.

Juveniles and Human Rights

The court’s ruling should not negate on the victims' rights. A fair hearing of their plights and administration of justice is their right. The court fulfills that obligation. It gives an alternative to the death penalty that serves as an equal punishment.

However, insisting on a death penalty when an alternative one had been decided will serve not to give justice but revenge for the victims. It will no longer be a cause for justice but a settlement of scores.

It is however important to note that all juveniles should not be as a result classified as equals as they are all different when it comes to experience, intelligence, maturity and their moral culpability.

What the International Law Says About Juveniles

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child's Article 37 expressly prohibits the capital punishment for the crimes juveniles commit. How does this relate to constitutions of respective nations? Should the international law be considered when making rulings regarding juveniles?

Some are of the view that despite the importance of such comparative analysis at the time of constitution creation, it is inappropriate to seek the same during its interpretation. This is not the case. A point of agreement is that international opinion should not control the determination of a court case but it is important in its corroboration. Nevertheless, international comparison in the cases of whichever nature involving adults affects many rulings made.

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