The American criminal justice system is comprised of criminal courts, correctional facilities, and law enforcement officials. Each of these components also make up the juvenile justice system but the operations of each differs with juveniles than with adults who are suspected of committing criminal acts. A juvenile offender is an individual under a certain age who is suspected of having committed a crime or a status offense. A status offense is an offense that if committed by an adult, would be legal or acceptable. Examples of status offenses are truancy, under aged consumption of alcoholic beverages, and running away from home. Law enforcement officials use their discretion when determining how to pursue status offenses involving juveniles, but when it comes to more serious offenses, they must ensure the safety of society, while also maintaining compliance with the United States Constitution. In this way they are able to stand firm on the fact that they have not violated the rights of the offender.
Young people under the age of 18 account for approximately 16 percent of all arrests in the United States (Kendall, 2010). Law enforcement officials and judicial officers differ in the way that they investigate and process cases involving juveniles and adults. Juveniles who are suspected of criminal activity are processed by the juvenile justice system and their cases are held in a separate court from adult criminal cases. Juvenile cases are processed under the basic assumption that young offenders can be rehabilitated and reformed. Recidivism is acceptable more with the youthful offender and society often allows them more chances to improve their criminal behavior outside of the correctional institution.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution ensures that individuals are protected from illegal search and seizure. It specifies that an individual has the right to be secure in their person, home, etc from searches and seizure of evidence without probable cause or a warrant. These rules are applicable to both the adult and the juvenile offender. In either case, evidence obtained in violation of Fourth Amendment rights are not allowed to be presented during a trial or hearing. Juveniles may be approached and questioned by law enforcement officers without probable cause and may walk away without answering questions. For example, an officer on foot patrol may stop a young person who just happens to look suspicious. The officer may ask for identification but the young person does not have to comply, and are well within their rights if they respectfully choose to ignore the request. If in the process of questioning, the officer feels that the youth imposes a danger to him, themselves, or any other person, they may conduct a Terry search or “pat down” to ensure that they aren’t in danger.
While adult cases are held in adult criminal court, with offenders being tried by a jury of their peers, juvenile cases are...