I grow concerned that in most juvenile cases the juvenile is not entitled to a jury trial. The formal reasoning is that juvenile cases are not criminal cases, so constitutional guarantees are not applicable. Juvenile cases in Douglas and Arapahoe County are seen as civil in nature.
Collateral Consequences Make Juvenile Cases Just Like Criminal Ones
If we are talking about a simple juvenile case in Jefferson or Adams County, like shoplifting theft, disorderly conduct or fighting, I would not be so concerned. However, in serious cases like sexual assault or sexual assault on a child, collateral consequences are huge. Examples of these consequences may include registration as a sex offender, having a record of being a sex offender, and incarceration in the Department of Youth Corrections. Although technically “civil” in nature, many juvenile cases carry identical consequences to criminal cases. In reality, these matters are every bit as serious as a criminal case and deserve the protections of a jury trial guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Colorado Constitution.
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Judges and Magistrates Can't Match the Impartiality of a Jury
Judges and magistrates tend to look more towards safe career moves rather than justice
As much as we all want to believe a Denver judge or magistrate can be as impartial as a jury, this simply is not the case in the real world. Judges are often former prosecutors, or have been doing their job long enough to develop a bias against juveniles. Magistrates are very sensitive to criticism as they are trying to become judges and don't have the independence which a judge can have. Neither a magistrate nor judge can accept thousands of guilty pleas and remain neutral. Also, over time judges and magistrates learn to look for the career safe moves in deciding close cases. Juries do not have any of this baggage – they simply dig for the truth.
No Jury = No Justice for Our Kids
Only with juries can our kids receive justice
In a perfect world, juveniles would get the justice they deserve from a magistrate or judge. But, since we don't live in that world, it makes sense to ensure constitutional protections for juveniles by giving them a jury to decide their guilt or innocence. Only then can they receive justice under our system of government.
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