There Are No Children Here: D.C. Youth in the Criminal Justice System
Citation: 104 Geo L.J. 1307 (2016)
In the District of Columbia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has absolute authority to charge sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds as adults for certain crimes and prosecute them as adults in the Criminal Division of D.C. Superior Court, automatically divesting the juvenile justice system of jurisdiction over them. No hearing is afforded to those individuals to determine whether they are beyond the rehabilitative reach of the juvenile justice system. When convicted, they face adult sentences in adult correctional facilities. Nearly all U.S. states likewise permit the prosecution of children under eighteen in adult courts in some cases, but each of those state laws is dissimilar from D.C.’s in one important way: the D.C. law, known commonly as Title 16, was passed by the U.S. Congress, and only Congress—not D.C. residents legislating through their elected representatives on the D.C. Council—can change it. The D.C. Home Rule Act bars the Council from enacting any law touching on the jurisdiction of D.C. courts or the power of the U.S. Attorney. This Note challenges the constitutionality of this scheme.