The juvenile justice system, just like the justice system for adults, has a place for prosecutors and defense attorneys. The prosecutor in the juvenile justice system has various roles. In addition to the traditional roles of determining which juveniles should be charged with crimes, those to be diverted from prosecution and whether or not there is need to transfer the juvenile to an adult or criminal court, the prosecutor has other roles. These include serving as an advocate for justice, the victim and community values by putting into consideration the special needs of the juvenile while ensuring that they seek justice and protect the public safety and welfare of the community. Another role is that of acting as a negotiator and dispositional advocate through ensuring that charging of the juvenile is timely and the juvenile receives and understands their disposition. The role of the prosecutor extends to prevention of delinquency through participation in community outreach efforts to address juvenile crime.
The defense attorney has a role to play in delinquency cases. The defense attorney represents the accused, in this case, the accused minor. The role of a defense attorney in the juvenile justice system is not different from their role in adult criminal cases. The defense attorney has the role of assisting the client in coping with the problems of the law, to inquire about the facts in a skillful manner and to insist upon regularity of the proceedings. In addition to this, the defense attorney has to ascertain whether the accused minor has a defense and to prepare and submit it. There are model rules of professional conduct designed to govern the relationship between the defense attorney and the juvenile, in order to protect the minor.
In my opinion, the prosecutor’s role in the juvenile justice system should not be changed. As evidenced from their role described above, the presence of a prosecutor is vital in ensuring that justice is served and the welfare of both the community and the minor offender is protected. The role of a prosecutor in negotiation and disposition is important in ensuring that delinquents receive appropriate correction if they deserve. Participation of prosecutors in preventing delinquency is key in reducing both juvenile offenses and adult criminal offenses.
Hertz, R., Guggenheim, M., & Amsterdam, A. G. (2012). Trial Manual for Defense Attorneys in Juvenile Delinquency Cases. Washington D.C.: National Juvenile Defense Center.
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