Course: Introduction / Procedural Law / Juvenile Justice
McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (1971) is a landmark SCOTUS decision in which the Court determined that juveniles are not entitled to a trial by jury in juvenile court proceedings.
In McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court addressed the question of whether juveniles accused of crimes in juvenile court were entitled to a trial by jury, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment in adult criminal trials. The case involved a group of juveniles in Pennsylvania who had been charged with various offenses, ranging from robbery to assault. They argued that they were entitled to a jury trial under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled against the juveniles, holding that the Constitution does not require a jury trial in juvenile court proceedings. The Court reasoned that the purpose of juvenile court is not to punish but to rehabilitate and that the traditional safeguards of the criminal justice system, such as the right to a jury trial, were not necessary or appropriate in the juvenile justice system.
The decision in McKeiver was met with criticism from some who felt that juveniles were being denied basic rights that were afforded to adults in criminal proceedings. However, others argued that the decision was consistent with the goals of the juvenile justice system, which was designed to focus on the rehabilitation of young offenders rather than punishing them.
Despite the ruling in McKeiver, there have been some exceptions to the general rule that juveniles are not entitled to a jury trial in juvenile court. Some states have passed laws allowing for jury trials in certain circumstances, such as when a juvenile is charged with a serious offense or when the juvenile is facing the possibility of a lengthy sentence.
Overall, the decision in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania remains an important landmark in the development of juvenile justice in the United States. It reflects the unique nature of the juvenile justice system and the challenges of balancing the rights of young offenders with the need to maintain public safety and promote rehabilitation.
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Last Modified: 04/08/2023