Substantive Limitations on the Power of Family Courts to Commit Delinquent Juveniles to State Custody: Analysis and Critique
45 Pages Posted: 11 May 2005
This article examines the substantive limitations that are placed in some jurisdictions on the ability of a court to commit a juvenile to state custody. Some states grant nearly unfettered discretion to their family courts. In those jurisdictions, a juvenile can be committed to state custody even for the commission of a relatively minor delinquent act, such as shoplifting. In other states, the power to commit is statutorily limited to those juveniles who have committed certain specified crimes or types of crimes. Some states, for example, only permit commitment of juveniles who have been convicted of felonies. Others employ adult-like penalty schemes where a juvenile's length of commitment is dependent on whether the crime he committed was a felony or misdemeanor.
This article demonstrates the benefits and problems associated with both limited and limitless commitment power. It concludes by proposing an alternative statutory scheme that provides for maximum judicial discretion while insuring that juveniles do not face grossly disproportionate punishment.
Keywords: Juvenile, commitment, delinquent, delinquency, state, discretion, family, sentence, disposition
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