Should Waiver/Transfer to Adult Court be Abolished?

Treating Juveniles Like Juveniles: Getting Rid of Transfer and Expanded Adult Court Jurisdiction, by Christopher Slobogin, 46 Tex. Tech. L. Rev. 1 (2013), wades into the ongoing debate about whether transferring children to the adult criminal court meets the societal goals of offender rehabilitation and maintaining safe communities.  Prof. Slobogin argues that transfer or waiver should be abolished completely because it wastes resources, damages juveniles, and decreases public safety.  He discusses these ideas further in his book, Juveniles at Risk: A Plea for Preventive Justice (this links to the Amazon page, but it is available from many resources).

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Delinquency Cases Waived to Criminal Court, 2009 (the most recent data available) provides a national overview of the transfer/waiver process.  It notes that nationally, in 2009, for every 1,000 petitioned delinquency cases, nine were waived to criminal court.  In Indiana, the data on waived cases is not readily available in the judicial caseload statistics, but those numbers are being sought.

There has been little progress in Indiana with the legislature concerning waiver of juvenile court jurisdiction.  Most of the laws have been virtually unchanged since 1997.  The relevant Indiana laws regarding when a child may be transferred to adult criminal court jurisdiction are available here.   Similarly, there has been virtually no progress in reducing the number of crimes that are excluded from juvenile court jurisdiction altogether for children who are at least sixteen years of age.  See I.C. 31-30-1-4.  For these “direct file” crimes, the child’s case is never in juvenile court if the prosecuting attorney alleges that the child committed any of the listed crimes.

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