Do Juveniles Have the Right to a Trial by Jury?

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Criminal Defense Attorneys Fighting for Juveniles in New Mexico

trial by juryJuvenile cases do not operate the same as adult cases in court. In fact, the right to a trial by jury, per the United States Constitution, only belongs to adults. Established in 1971, the United States Supreme Court states there is no right to a jury trial for juvenile proceedings (McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 US 528(1971).)

Later proceedings have questioned the issue of withholding the right to a jury trial from minors. However, these arguments have not succeeded. Today, states are not obligated to provide juniors with a jury trial, unless they are being charged as an adult. Instead, judges decide juvenile cases.

Other Differences Between Juvenile and Adult Cases

A minor, in the state of New Mexico, is anyone under the age of majority, which is 18 years. If a person under 18 commits a crime, they are typically judged in juvenile court. However, very serious, or heinous-natured crimes, may be charged in adult courts.

A juvenile misdemeanor and felony all go before the juvenile court system. These systems do believe in punishment and promoting community safety, but they differ from adult-level courts. Instead of harsh punishments, the goal of juvenile court is to rehabilitate and promote a healthier life for the minor – not focus on jail or long-term prison sentences.

Delinquent Acts – Not Crimes

When a minor is charged with a crime, they are being accused of a delinquent act, not a crime. Juveniles have adjudication hearings, not trials, which is why they do not have the right to a jury during their hearing. Hearings are conducted with judges, and the judge’s decision is final.

Juvenile Protections and Rights in the Court

Juveniles have the same constitutional rights as adults, except for the right to a trial by jury. Furthermore, minors do not receive bail or a public hearing. These are closed proceedings, and the files for the offenses are sealed.

However, juveniles also have protections that they would not receive in the adult court, including:

  • Records are sealed so that a minor’s offense does not affect them during adulthood.
  • Records might be expunged once the juvenile reaches 18 years.
  • Juveniles have the right to notification before their hearing and the right to pre-release if the act is non-violent in nature.
  • Juveniles also have the right to an attorney, including a free public defender.

Rulings for a Juvenile Offender

After the judge hears the case, he or she then decides the disposition. The judge is determining if the juvenile committed the crime, and what the adequate punishment and rehabilitation might be for the minor.

Collective punishments might include community service, counseling, being sent to a juvenile facility for detainment, and so forth. The penalties depend on the alleged crime and the seriousness of that crime.

Speak with an Attorney Regarding Your Arrest

If your child was arrested for being in possession of alcohol under the age of 21 or another serious offense, contact the attorneys at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices.

We understand how confusing a time like this can be, and our attorneys are here to help clear your child’s name and ensure they receive the rehabilitation they deserve. Schedule a free case evaluation now at 505-375-4763 or contact us online with your questions.