In a Supreme Court case that became known as Kent v. United States, a 16-year-old boy named Morris Kent was detained and interrogated by police in Washington, D.C. regarding a slew of robberies, rape, and many other crimes. When the interrogation was taking place, Kent admitted to committing a few of the crimes. When Kent’s mother found this out, she hired an attorney and was prepared to help her son through his trial. Because of his young age, Kent was brought before a juvenile court judge for pretrial issues. The judge then waived the juvenile court’s jurisdiction, or gave up the court’s authority to make legal decisions in the case.
When Kent was set to be tried as an adult and was convicted, he challenged the conviction in front of Supreme Court, bringing us the case we know today. The Supreme Court held that the juvenile court’s waiver in Kent’s case was invalid. They then determined that the court failed to properly investigate whether he should be tried as a juvenile or an adult. This became a matter involving due process, which is a constitutional guarantee of a fair process promised to every criminal defendant, regardless of age.
Constitutional Protections Afforded to Juveniles
The Supreme Court, since then, has held that juvenile courts must give juveniles basic constitutional protections in proceedings against them. This includes advance notice of the charges, the right to counsel, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to remain silent. Supreme Court has also extended the search and seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment to juveniles as well as provide a probable cause hearing to juveniles arrested without a warrant. They are, however, kept from all the same rights that adults have, such as the right to trial by jury. This is mostly due to the fact that the court does not treat alleged juvenile delinquents as alleged criminals.
If you are a juvenile or the parent of a juvenile who has been charged with a crime and you wonder what these protections mean, you can give us a call today. We will help you better understand your case as well as what rights you have. Call us today for more.