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date: 19 March 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the “law on the books” and the “law in action” in juvenile courts. It analyzes developmental psychological research on juveniles' competence to exercise rights. It also examines the impact of juveniles' limited competence to exercise and waive their right to counsel. Juveniles' developmental limitations adversely affect the delivery of legal services in juvenile courts and increase the risks of erroneous adjudications. Youths' diminished competence and the absence of counsel compounds the risks of erroneous convictions. It then studies the Court's rationale to deny juveniles a constitutional right to a jury trial and analyzes why that makes it easier to convict delinquents than criminals and how the subsequent use of delinquency convictions to enhance criminal sentences compounds that procedural disparity. Finally, the article concludes that most states do not provide delinquents with procedural safeguards that provide formal or functional protections comparable to those of adult criminal defendants.

Keywords: procedural rights, juvenile courts, developmental limitations, legal services, constitutional right, delinquency

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