Juvenile Jury Trials — Is the Time Coming in Indiana?

Currently, juveniles do not have the right to a jury trial in juvenile court.   I.C. 31-32-6-7(a) specifically states that all matters in juvenile court, except when an adult is charged with a crime, is tried to the court.  This statute aligns with the U.S. Supreme Court case, McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971), which held that jury trials are not essential for accurate fact-finding and are not constitutionally required in juvenile court.  In 2010, advocates in Indiana again challenged for the right to a jury trial under the rationale that juvenile delinquency proceedings are quasi-criminal, but the Court did not agree.  See A.S. v. State, 929 N.E.2d 881 (Ind.Ct.App. 2010).

Several states allow jury trials in at least some circumstances: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.  These states have offered a variety of rationales to allow jury trials for their children in juvenile court, which include:

  • A jury trial is required due to the threat of incarceration (Alaska, New York).
  • A jury trial is required when the alleged act would be a felony if committed by an adult and for which an adult would receive a jury trial (New Mexico, Tennessee).
  • A jury trial is possible upon request with some procedural limitations (Texas).
  • The juvenile court distinction from criminal court has eroded (Kansas).

For additional argument for the right to a jury trial in juvenile court, see Punitive Juvenile Justice and Public Trials by Jury: Sixth Amendment Applications in a Post-McKeiver World by Martin R. Gardner, 91 Neb. L. Rev. 1 (2012)

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One Response to Juvenile Jury Trials — Is the Time Coming in Indiana?

  1. Pingback: No Juvenile Jury Trials, But Right to a Jury Trial for Damage Caused by a Stray Animal? | Indiana Juvenile Justice Blog

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