For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 27

I

n 1995, the Pennsylvania legislature passed
Act 33, which altered the purpose and scope
of Pennsylvania's Juvenile Act.1 One major
change was that the definition of "delinquent
act" was amended to exclude certain offenses
and provide for direct filing in adult criminal
court in those cases. This change vested initial
jurisdiction in criminal court for juveniles who
are at least 15 years old and who either used a
deadly weapon in the commission of specified
violent felonies or were previously adjudicated
delinquent for such crimes.2 Jurisdiction in these
cases must begin in criminal court; the juvenile
may then file a petition requesting transfer to
the juvenile division.3
This legislation was passed in response
to unsubstantiated, and then unfulfilled,
predictions by social scientists of a new breed
of criminal-the superpredator. Superpredators
were conceived as feral youth4 who were
capable of extreme brutality; who as a group
were more violent than any type of criminal the
country had seen before; and who could not be
rehabilitated by any means.5 While the predicted
wave of superpredators never came into being-
and, in fact, the superpredator concept itself has
since been discredited and debunked6-the laws
that were enacted in every state in response to a
panicked public still largely remain in place.
While the superpredator concept has
been debunked, its legacy lives on in the law,
requiring defense lawyers to fight against
juvenile "decertification." Preparing for a
transfer (or "decertification") hearing can
be time-consuming and the process itself can
seem overwhelming. This article outlines the
law regarding transfer from criminal court
to juvenile court; describes the process of
preparing for a transfer hearing; and suggests
some possible strategies for presenting a
decertification argument.

Relevant Law and Standard of Proof
The juvenile carries the burden in a transfer
hearing to establish "by a preponderance of
the evidence that the transfer will serve the
public interest."7 In determining whether
transfer serves the public interest, the court shall
consider the following factors:

(A) the impact of the offense on the victim
or victims;
(B) the impact of the offense on the
community;
(C) the threat to the safety of the public or
any individual posed by the child;
(D) the nature and circumstances of the
offense allegedly committed by the child;
(E) the degree of the child's culpability;
(F) the adequacy and duration of dispositional
alternatives available under this chapter
and in the adult criminal justice system;
and
(G) whether the child is amenable to
treatment, supervision or rehabilitation as
a juvenile by considering the following
factors:
(I) age;
(II) mental capacity;
(III) maturity;
(IV) the degree of criminal sophistication
exhibited by the child;
(V) previous records, if any;
(VI) the nature and extent of any prior
delinquent history, including the
success or failure of any previous
attempts by the juvenile court to
rehabilitate the child;
(VII) whether the child can be rehabilitated
prior to the expiration of the juvenile
court jurisdiction;
(VIII) probation or institutional reports,
if any; and
(IX) any other relevant factors8

Amenability to Treatment
In building a case for transfer, your argument
should touch on as many of the above-listed
factors as possible. However, while amenability
to treatment is only one of several factors the
court must consider, it is an area of your case
in which you have a great deal of control.
While a juvenile's amenability to treatment
does include a consideration of the juvenile's
criminal sophistication, as exhibited in the
present criminal charges, amenability otherwise
exists largely outside the parameters of the
criminal complaint. Amenability to treatment
in a decertification hearing is critical. If a
Vol. 4, Issue 3

l

For The Defense

27



For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3

Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 4
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 5
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 6
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 7
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 8
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 9
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 10
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 11
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 12
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 13
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 14
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 15
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 16
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 17
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 18
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 19
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 20
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 21
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 22
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 23
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 24
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 25
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 26
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 27
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 28
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 29
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 30
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 31
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For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 33
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For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 3 - 54
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