Why Are So Few Children in Federal Court? (It is a good thing)

The federal government has established that it is preferred that children alleged to be delinquents or have been accused of a criminal act be handled by the appropriate state and/or juvenile court.  The U.S. Department of Justice, United States Attorneys’ Manual, Chapter 9-8.110, notes that:

“With one limited exception (the certification requirement does not apply to violations of law committed within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States for which the maximum authorized term of imprisonment does not exceed six months, see S. Rep. No. 98-225, at 388), a juvenile cannot be proceeded against in any court of the United States unless the Attorney General, after investigation, certifies to the appropriate United States District Court that (1) the juvenile court or other appropriate state court does not have jurisdiction or refuses to assume jurisdiction over the juvenile with respect to the alleged act of juvenile delinquency; or (2) the state does not have available programs and services adequate for the needs of juveniles; or (3) the offense charged is a crime of violence or an offense described in 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(x), 924(b),(g), or (h), or 21 U.S.C. §§ 841, 952(a), 953, 955, 959, or 960(b)(1), (2), or (3) and there is a substantial federal interest that justifies the exercise of federal jurisdiction. See 18 U.S.C. § 5032.

The authority to proceed with this certification was delegated to the United States Attorneys by then Assistant Attorney General Jo Ann Harris in a Memorandum dated July 20, 1995. Consultation with state officials is important in determining the appropriate method of proceeding. In this regard, it is important to note that a number of states consider persons to be adults for purposes of criminal prosecution at an age younger than eighteen years of age.”

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