Justice for Juveniles in Juvenile and Criminal Court Settings: A Comparative Analysis of Case Processing

Charles E. Frazier, University of Florida
Donna M. Bishop, Northeastern University
Lonn Lanza-Kaduce, University of Florida
Jodi Lane, University of Florida

This paper explores procedural justice issues with respect to the processing of adolescent offenders, comparing cases handled in juvenile court with a matched sample of cases transferred to criminal court. Police and court file data are examined for 900 cases handled in several Florida counties. Using the Sellin-Wolfgang Index, we score the seriousness of offenses based on information recorded in police incident reports and arrest narratives. We then examine how similar cases fare across the two justice systems in terms of prosecutorial charging, plea negotiations, and final conviction. We explore differentials in charging, "overcharging,": charge reduction, and conviction offenses. Drawing upon interviews with adolescent offenders, we discuss the implications of the findings in light of adolescents' abilities to understand the nature of the offenses with which they are charged and the nature and consequences of the plea decisions they are asked to make.

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Updated 05/20/2006