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ROLE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY IN JUVENILE COURT - IS THE JUVENILE COURT BECOMING JUST LIKE ADULT COURT?

NCJ Number
57997
Journal
Juvenile and Family Court Journal Volume: 30 Issue: 2 Dated: (MAY 1979) Pages: 17-23
Author(s)
I J SAGATUN; L P EDWARDS
Date Published
1979
Length
7 pages
Annotation
A SURVEY OF CALIFORNIA'S 58 DISTRICT ATTORNEYS (42 RESPONSES) UNDERTAKEN TO ASSESS THE IMPACT OF A STATE LAW EXPANDING THE ROLE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY IN THE JUVENILE COURTS IS DOCUMENTED.
Abstract
IN JANUARY 1977, CALIFORNIA PASSED A LAW THAT TOUGHENED THE STATE'S APPROACH TO YOUTHS ACCUSED OF CERTAIN CRIMES, RESTRICTED THE STATE'S AUTHORITY OVER STATUS OFFENDERS, AND DESIGNATED THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AS PETITIONER IN ALL DELINQUENCY MATTERS BEFORE THE JUVENILE COURT. THE STATE'S DISTRICT ATTORNEYS WERE SURVEYED TO DETERMINE HOW THE LAW HAD CHANGED JUVENILE COURT PROCEDURES AND PRACTICES AND AFFECTED THE DUTIES AND RESOURCES OF PROSECUTORS. MOST DISTRICTS HAD DOUBLED THE SIZE OF THEIR STAFF ASSIGNED TO JUVENILE COURT. THERE HAD BEEN MAJOR CHANGES IN THE JUVENILE COURT DUTIES PERFORMED BY DISTRICT ATTORNEYS, AND DELINQUENCY PROCEEDINGS WERE BECOMING MORE AND MORE LIKE ADULT CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS. OVER HALF OF THE RESPONDENTS SAID THEY ENGAGED IN PLEA BARGAINING IN THE JUVENILE COURT. THE NUMBER OF FITNESS HEARINGS HAD AT LEAST DOUBLED IN MOST COUNTIES, AND THE NUMBER OF MINORS SENT TO ADULT COURTS HAD INCREASED. THE NEW LAW HAD CAUSED CONSIDERABLE FRICTION BETWEEN DISTRICT ATTORNEYS AND JUVENILE PROBATION OFFICES, WHICH PRIOR TO PASSAGE OF THE LAW HAD ACTED AS PETITIONER IN DELINQUENCY CASES. ALTHOUGH ALL RESPONDENTS FELT THAT THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY HAD AN IMPORTANT FUNCTION TO PERFORM AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PEOPLE IN JUVENILE COURT, THERE WAS DISAGREEMENT ABOUT THE EXACT NATURE OF THAT FUNCTION UNDER THE NEW LAW, AS WELL AS CONCERN REGARDING THE DUAL PURPOSES OF REHABILITATING MINORS AND PROTECTING THE PUBLIC. WHETHER DISTRICT ATTORNEYS WILL ESTABLISH CONSISTENT POLICIES TO GUIDE THEIR PARTICIPATION IN JUVENILE COURTS REMAINS TO BE SEEN. ONE TABLE, SHOWING THE NATURE OF JUVENILE COURT APPEARANCES BY PROSECUTORS BEFORE AND AFTER PASSAGE OF THE LAW, IN INCLUDED. (LKM)