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Criminal Resource Manual

121. Constitutional Protections Afforded Juveniles

The United States Supreme Court has held that in juvenile commitment proceedings, juvenile courts must afford to juveniles basic constitutional protections, such as advance notice of the charges, the right to counsel, the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, and the right to remain silent. In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1428, 18 L. Ed. 2d 527 (1967).The Supreme Court has extended the search and seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment to juveniles. New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 333, 105 S. Ct. 733, 738, 83 L. Ed. 2d 720 (1985). It has also been held that the Fourth Amendment requires that a juvenile arrested without a warrant be provided a probable cause hearing. Moss v. Weaver, 525 F. 2d 1258, 1259-60 (5th Cir. 1976). The exclusionary rule also applies to federal delinquency adjudications. United States v. Doe, 801 F. Supp. 1562, 1567-72 (E.D. Tex. 1992).

Juveniles are entitled to Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination in juvenile proceedings despite the non-criminal nature of those proceedings. In re Gault, 387 U.S. at 49-50, 87 S. Ct. at 1455-56. Substance, not form, controls in determining the applicability of the Fifth Amendment to proceedings not labeled criminal. Id. at 49-50, 87 S. Ct. at 1455-56. Since a juvenile defendant's liberty is at stake, the Fifth Amendment applies. Id.

Juveniles are not, however, accorded the full panoply of rights that adult criminal defendants are accorded, such as the right to trial by jury. McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528, 91 S. Ct. 1976, 29 L. Ed. 2d 647 (1971). Most of the opinions reason that a jury trial is not required because the Act does not treat alleged juvenile delinquents as alleged criminals, and therefore, the Constitution does not mandate it. The McKeiver court stated that, "(t)here is a possibility, at least, that the jury trial, if required..., will remake the juvenile proceeding into a fully adversary process and will put an effective end to what has been the idealistic prospect of an intimate, informal protective proceeding." 403 U.S. at 545, 91 S. Ct. at 1986. As a result, juvenile courts still process juvenile delinquents in a manner more paternal and diagnostic than that afforded their adult criminal counterparts. Alexander S. by and through Bowers v. Boyd, 876 F. Supp. 773, 781 (D.S.C. 1995).