Diligent. Dedicated. Prepared.

The role of social studies in the juvenile law system

As children in Philadelphia grow up and become teens and young adults, they are constantly developing. Along the way juveniles will make poor choices. Some of these choices will result with juvenile charges against the child, such as underage drinking or drug charges. If the juvenile is convicted of the crime, it can result in long-term consequences for the child that they most likely do not realize at the time they made the decision. However, when punishing the juvenile, the courts do try to rehabilitate the person to try and ensure they will not make the same choices as an adult.

Therefore, punishments for juveniles tend to focus on what is best for the child. This can be difficult for a judge to determine on his or her own since they have little information about the child outside of the fact that they are accused of a crime. Therefore, social studies may be used prior to sentencing a juvenile.

These social studies investigate the child’s life in order to determine the best punishment for the child. They look at the significance of the crime committed; the juvenile’s behavior overall at school, at home and in the community; the juvenile’s physical, emotional and intellectual development and how it will affect his or her rehabilitation; the attitudes of those around the juvenile at home, school and in the community; the juvenile’s psychological evaluations if necessary and other factors. Once the investigation is complete they will make recommendations on what they believe is the best punishment for the juvenile.

These social studies are generally ordered after the juvenile admits guilt, but they can be completed before that in certain circumstances. These reports are very informative for sentencing, but the juvenile may not have to complete a study if they are successfully able to defend against the charges. If they can accomplish that, they avoid not only the social study, but the long-term consequences of penalties as well.

Many teenagers are charged with crimes each year in Philadelphia. If convicted they may become the focus of a social study to determine the short-term consequences in addition to the long-term consequences. However, there may be many beneficial defenses available to a juvenile when he or she has been accused of a crime.

Source: Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission, “Pennsylvania Juvenile Delinquency Benchbook, Chapter 9,” accessed on Aug. 31, 2015


FindLaw Network
Super Lawyers
The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers