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A First Look at the Plea Deal Experiences of Juveniles Tried in Adult Court

Tarika Daftary-Kapur

While there is a large body of research on the legal capacities of adolescents, this research largely has neglected the plea-deal context. To learn about adolescents’ understanding of the plea process and their appreciation of the short- and long-term consequences of accepting a plea deal, we conducted interviews with 40 juveniles who were offered plea deals in adult criminal court. Participants displayed limited understanding of the plea process, were not fully aware of their legal options and appeared to be overly influenced by the short-term benefits associated with accepting their plea deals. Limited contact with attorneys may have contributed to poor understanding. Although preliminary, our results suggest that these youth might be at increased risk for due-process rights violations. We use these data to point to several open research questions on the plea-deal process for youth charged as adults.