The original purpose of the juvenile court was to create a forum, separate from the adult courts, in which children could be given the opportunity for rehabilitation and treatment. Society placed an emphasis on correcting misbehavior and minimizing disruptions in the transition to adulthood for young people and wanted to spare them the stigma of being branded as “criminals.” In 1967, the Court established in In re Gault that juveniles, even though they were in a different system, were still entitled to the basic safeguards that an adult would be granted in the courtroom.
For most of the existence of the juvenile court in Virginia, the belief that children are amenable to reform prevailed. Unfortunately, the late 1980s and 1990s ushered in a new attitude about how children should be treated in the criminal justice system. Based on a now disproven theory that there would be a wave of juvenile “superpredators” that would wreak havoc on our communities, public policy began to deemphasize youth privacy, treatment, and rehabilitation in favor of laws designed to heighten public accountability. In reality, the predicted youth crime wave never materialized and between 1999 and 2008, juvenile arrest rates for violent crimes decreased by 8.6 percent and total juvenile arrest rates have fallen by 15.7 percent in the past decade. Regardless, Congress and the Virginia General Assembly enacted numerous laws ceating serious collateral consequences attendant to delinquency adjudications.
In Padilla v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court recently addressed the duty of counsel to advise clients about collateral consequences. In light of this case, the lifelong impact of many collateral consequences, and the inherent vulnerability of children, it is imperative that to provide efective assistance of counsel, attorneys inform their clients of all the potential collateral consequences of a juvenile adjudication or conviction. Collateral consequences greatly impact the lives of individuals with criminal records, as well as, in many instances, the lives of their families. These consequences, both individually and collectively, constrict the social, economic, and political access of the two million juveniles arrested nationwide each year, impeding the individual’s ability to reintegrate successfully into the community upon release. The collection of consequences that can attach to a single conviction is exceedingly difficult to grasp, as they comprise a mixture of federal and state statutory law, regulatory law, and local policies.
Julie Ellen McConnell, Five Devastating Collateral Consequences of Juvenile Delinquency Adjudications You Should Know Before You Represent a Child, Va. Law., Dec. 2012, at 34.