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Juvenile Sentencing

Adrine Rodriguez

Professor Kardell

English 102

September 25, 2018


Juvenile Sentencing:

Within the United States a person under the age of 18 is tried in juvenile court, unless the

court establishes a waver for the juvenile to be tried in criminal court. Crimes for example, being

an accessory to murder and other nonhomicide crimes can result in a life sentence. Juveniles cannot

fully understand the seriousness of their crimes and how they affect others, unlike adult offenders.

Courts sentence juveniles based on crimes they are accused of committing, whether or not, their

involvement was minimal, and the system does not take into consideration that many juveniles do

not fully understand the seriousness of the accused crime or how they have affected others.

There are numerous cases that result in juveniles being sentenced to life without parole for

accessory to murder and nonhomicide crimes. Studies have shown that juveniles differ from adult

offenders in a cognitive aspect and fundamental (Keller 2012). Which brings up the point that

sentencing juveniles to life without parole is unconstitutional. According to Keller, children are

different from adults on many levels, due to the fact that their brains are not as fully developed.

Keller also explains that in 2005 the Supreme Court issued a series of opinions stating that children

are different than adults in “fundamental – and constitutionally relevant ways” (Keller 2012).

The journal “Felony murder, juveniles, and culpability,” explains that children do not

always understand the laws and their rights when committing a crime. For example, David who

was fifteen years old and Larry who was thirteen, at the time of the crime, decided to rob a convince

store. Where Larry went inside the store and murdered the clerk, then ran into the car that David

was driving. The police arrested the boys and charged both with murder. Larry already had a run

in with the law, so he knew not to incriminate himself, where David did not, and he told the police

that Larry came up with the plan and killed the clerk. There was not enough evidence to charge

Larry, but enough to charge David with felony murder and sentence life without parole. This case

demonstrates how children are different than adults because during the time of the crime David

was under Larry’s command, as where an adult offender normally commits crimes alone, so they

can have control over the situation (Moore 2014).

The juvenile court system was originally put in place to rehabilitate juveniles rather than

to punish them. According to “Brought back to life,” juvenile courts are not based on the conviction

itself but based on the rehabilitation of the child (Knight 2016). Knight goes on expresses that

juveniles are more likely to demonstrate change than adult offenders. Under the federal law, every

individual state has the right to regulate their own laws. Society understands that children are

different than adults which resulted in the juvenile court system who try juveniles in a way that is

design best fits to their constitutional needs and rights.

According to “Sentencing juveniles to life in prison,” juveniles can be tried as adults in

criminal court, with a waiver signed form the judge that is assigned to that case. Many states have

expanded the waiver legislation to try juveniles as adults for crimes such as accessory to murder

and nonhomicide crimes (Miller 2013). These waivers dictate whether the juvenile will sentence

a life time in prison. The juvenile court was put in place to protect juveniles from being victimized

and having their eighth amendment right jeopardized. The courts, both juvenile and criminal are

based on individual constitutional rights. When the juvenile court system sends a juvenile to

criminal court for a crime other than murder contradicts the law in both juvenile and criminal court.

Sentencing a juvenile to life in prison demonstrates a violation of juveniles eight

amendment right. The eighth amendment states that no cruel and unusual punishment should be

inflicted upon any human being. According to “Felony Murder, Juveniles, and culpability” the

eighth amendment applies when there is a form of cruel and unusual punishment when sentencing

a criminal due to them being found guilty of a crime. The eighth amendment was put in place for

specific circumstances such as the sentencing of juveniles. During the 1899 social reformers, they

first formed an opinion based off studies that showed children were not responsible of their

behavior, as adults are (Moore 2014). It was not until 1988 that the supreme court established that

executing juveniles under the age of sixteen is a violation of their eighth amendment rights (Moore


According to Padilla- Franke, life without parole for a juvenile is a violation of article 37.

Article 37 demonstrates that no child should be subjected to torture, cruel or inhumane punishment.

Sentencing juveniles to life without parole for a crime such as an accessory to murder and

nonhomicide crimes is unconstitutional under the international law. When a juvenile rights are

violated it expresses revenue rather than rehabilitation (Padilla-Frankel 2016).

Overall, society knows that juveniles are not fully developed and do not fully comprehend

the impacts that their crimes have. Knight discussed that juveniles can gain a better insight from

rehabilitation, than adults. The juvenile courts originally focused on protecting juveniles’

constitutional rights. Also, criminal court waivers can act as a form of revenue rather than

rehabilitation. Lastly, under the eighth amendment as well as article 37 sentencing juveniles to life

without parole is unconstitutional.


The juvenile court system was put in place because there is a clear line that children are

different than adults. The juvenile court system demonstrated rehabilitation rather than

punishment, because studies have shown that children are more likely to change. Having the

juvenile court system and allowing waivers for accessory to murder and nonhomicide crimes are

contradictive. Under the eighth amendment as well as article 37 sentencing juveniles to life without

parole is unconstitutional.


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