Before prosecuting juvenile delinquent conduct, a thorough reading of Chapter 403 of Title 18, United States Code (18 U.S.C.A. §§ 5031-42), should be made. This chapter, codified from the Act, applies to any individual who commits a federal criminal violation prior to his eighteenth birthday. The Act applies to illegal aliens as well as to American citizens. United States v. Doe, 701 F. 2d 819, 822 (9th Cir. 1983). The Justice Manual, Title 9-8.000, provides some guidance on prosecuting those committing acts of juvenile delinquency.
Some terms need to be understood when referring to the Act. "Juvenile delinquency" means a federal criminal violation committed prior to one's eighteenth birthday. "Juvenile" means a person who has not attained his eighteenth birthday, or for the purpose of proceedings and disposition under the Act for an alleged act of juvenile delinquency, one who has not attained his twenty-first birthday. "Certification"|B250 is the document filed by the United States Attorney which confirms to the court that delinquency proceedings in federal court are authorized.
A person who commits a crime while aged eighteen or older may not be tried under the Act but must be proceeded against as an adult. United States v. Smith, 675 F. Supp. 307, 312 (E.D.N.C. 1987). A person older than twenty-one may, in some situations, be proceeded against as an adult for committing an act of juvenile delinquency. A defendant who commits an act of juvenile delinquency, but is not indicted until after he turns twenty-one years of age, is not entitled to protection of the Act and must be prosecuted as an adult. United States v. Hoo, 825 F. 2d 667, 670 (2d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1035, 108 S. Ct. 742, 98 L. Ed. 2d 777 (1988). The defendant may have a good objection to an adult charge filed after he turns twenty-one for a prior act of juvenile delinquency, if the delay in prosecuting him causes him substantial prejudice and is an intentional device to gain a tactical advantage. Id. at 671, citing United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 92 S. Ct. 455, 30 L. Ed. 2d 468 (1971).
The Act imparts considerable prosecutional discretion as to whether an accused will be tried as an adult even though the criminal conduct charged qualifies as an act of juvenile delinquency. United States v. Welch, 15 F. 3d 1202, 1207 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 114 S. Ct. 1863, 128 L. Ed. 2d 485 (1994). The government may bring a motion to transfer|B251 a juvenile defendant to the district court for prosecution as an adult if the juvenile is at least fifteen years of age and the government alleges that the juvenile committed certain enumerated transferrable offenses (e.g., violent crimes or controlled substance violations). 18 U.S.C.A. § 5032 (West Supp. 1995); Welch, 15 F. 3d at 1208. The government may also implement the mandatory transfer|B253 of a juvenile offender who has previously committed certain crimes. Id.