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Washington State Juvenile Law - An Overview of the Juvenile Justice Act of 1977, As Amended

The Juvenile Justice Act of 1977, as amended governs crime committed by juveniles 17 years of age and younger.
The juvenile court has original jurisdiction over crimes committed by juveniles 17 years or younger except in certain well defined and well delineated cases.
There are certain types of offenses and certain specific offenses wherein the adult criminal court automatically exercises exclusive original jurisdiction for juveniles who are 16 or 17 years old.
Additionally, a juvenile may be remanded to the jurisdiction of the adult court as the result of a decline hearing where the juvenile court declines jurisdiction.
The United States Supreme Court has laid down a specific set of criteria that must be adhered to in order for the juvenile court to decline jurisdiction.
Juveniles are considered to be indigent, therefore a public defender attorney is automatically appointed to represent the juvenile.
Obviously if the parents or the juvenile wishes to retain private counsel to represent her they are free to do so at their expense.
Because the main focus of the juvenile system is on intervention and rehabilitation, a juvenile who commits a crime is assigned a Juvenile Probation Counselor (JPC).
The JPC will investigate the social aspects of a juvenile's life and put forth recommendations to the court at the disposition hearing.
The criminal code for a juvenile is the same as for an adult.
Juveniles enjoy the same constitutional protections, such as right to trial, Miranda, search and seizure, etc.
, as an adult with several notable exceptions.
Juveniles are not entitled to a jury of their peers as are adults at trial.
Their trials are always judge trials wherein the judge is both the Trier of fact and arbiter of the law.
Disposition or sentencing ranges are much less in the juvenile system compared to the adult system.
The juvenile's criminal history, at the time the crime was committed, and the offense category of the crime determines the standard range sentence to be applied.
The sentence will fall into one of two categories, either Local Sanctions or a sentence to the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration.
Local Sanctions consists of 0 to 12 months probation, 0 to 150 hours of community service, 0 to $500 fine and 0 to 30 days in the county detention facility.
A sentence to the State Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration can be anywhere from the 15 to 36 weeks minimum to a maximum sentence to age 21.
Just as in the adult system there are alternate dispositions outside the standard range such as deferred disposition, chemical dependency disposition alternative and others.
Eligibility for these alternate dispositions are dependent on the type of offense committed, the prior criminal history of the juvenile and other factors.
It is the intent of the Juvenile Justice Act of 1977, as amended, to apply a set of standards throughout the state that ensures offenders are treated equally in all parts of the state.
It also ensures that offenders who cause greater harm to victims and society receive greater punishment.

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