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Juvenile delinquency adjudications are increasingly considered to be criminal convictions for purposes of sentencing enhancement in subsequent adult proceedings, leading to a renewed call for extension of the right to jury trial in the juvenile court so as to legitimize the use of adjudications. Such an extension is troubling, however, because regardless of the factfinder, it is improper to equate juvenile delinquency adjudications with criminal convictions for several reasons. First, the juvenile court remains distinct from the criminal court in its purpose and procedure. Second, the prevalence of juvenile pleas raises questions about whether juveniles defend against delinquency charges with the same vigor as they would against criminal charges. Finally, the necessity for a system of transfer into adult criminal court is questionable if adjudications can ex post facto be considered convictions. Although fairness dictates that juvenile adjudications should not be considered convictions, if they are consistently used as such, the infancy defense should be available in the juvenile court.

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Juvenile Law Commons