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Effect of Legal and Extralegal Factors on Statutory Exclusion of Juvenile Offenders

NCJ Number
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice Volume: 3 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2005 Pages: 214-234
John H. Lemmon; Thomas L. Austin; P. J. Verrecchia; Matthew Fetzer
Date Published
July 2005
21 pages
This article examines the implementation of Pennsylvania's Act 33 of 1995, which provides a mechanism for processing juveniles in adult criminal court, and examines two elements of deterrence theory underlying the legislation's rationale.
Act 33 excludes two categories of offenders from juvenile court jurisdiction: juveniles ages 15 to 18 alleged to have committed a violent offense with a dangerous weapon and juveniles ages 15 to 18 who are repeat violent offenders. Because Pennsylvania already has discretionary and presumptive judicial waiver provisions in its existing code, Act 33 implicitly provides for prosecutorial discretion in moving juveniles into the adult justice system through the charging process. The current study examined the characteristics of juveniles processed under Act 33, the sentencing outcomes, the deterrence effectiveness of Act 33, and the effect of extralegal factors in processing cases between and within the juvenile and adult systems. The study sample consisted of youths processed in adult court under the Act from when it became effective (March 18, 1996) through the end of December 1996. This involved 701 cases. Case data pertained to demographic and legal factors. Group status and three legal and four extralegal variables were independent variables. Six dependent variables examined two of the dimensions of deterrence, i.e., certainty and severity of punishment. Of the 701 juveniles processed under Act 33, only 194 (28 percent) were incarcerated. Of those incarcerated, only 15 percent were sentenced to State prison. Thirty-six percent of the total sample had their cases dismissed at either the preliminary hearing or at their subsequent trial or juvenile court hearing. Moreover, nearly 30 percent of the cases were remanded back to juvenile court. There was no significant difference in the certainty of punishment between juvenile and adult courts; however, regarding severity of punishment, the adult court was significantly more likely to incarcerate than the juvenile court. Policy implications are drawn. 7 tables, 11 notes, and 70 references