The U.S. Constitution grants American citizens numerous Due Process rights; but, historically, the Supreme Court declined to extend these Due Process rights to children. Initially, common-law courts treated child offenders over the age of seven in the same manner as adult criminals. At the start of the 20th century, though, juvenile reformers assisted in creating unique juvenile courts that used the parens patriae doctrine and viewed children as delinquent youths in need of judicial parental guidance rather than punishment. Later, starting in 1967, the Supreme Court released multiple opinions extending certain constitutional Due Process rights to children in juvenile delinquency proceedings.

While most states have implemented these constitutional rights into statutory and procedural law, the state of Michigan still struggles to clearly delineate how its justice system views and handles child offenders. Although Michigan’s Juvenile Code originated from a parens patriae standpoint, current Michigan juvenile court practices are inconsistent at best and completely contrary at worst. The conflict between viewing a child as a criminal and as a delinquent youth is evident in the striking differences between Michigan’s Juvenile Code and Michigan courts’ opinions. This Comment examines Michigan’s Juvenile Code and evaluates the Michigan courts’ lack of consistency in applying the Juvenile Code and in protecting children’s constitutional rights. This Comment will also highlight some pending changes to Michigan’s Juvenile Code and will provide recommendations for changes that would improve Michigan children’s access to their Due Process protections.



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