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BREED V. JONES, 421 U. S. 519 (1975)

U.S. Supreme Court

Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519 (1975)

Breed v. Jones

No. 73-1995

Argued February 25-26, 1975

Decided May 27, 1975

421 U.S. 519


The prosecution of respondent as an adult in California Superior Court, after an adjudicatory finding in Juvenile Court that he had violated a criminal statute and a subsequent finding that he was unfit for treatment as a juvenile, violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 421 U. S. 528-541.

(a) Respondent was put in jeopardy at the Juvenile Court adjudicatory hearing, whose object was to determine whether he had committed acts that violated a criminal law and whose potential consequences included both the stigma inherent in that determination and the deprivation of liberty for many years. Jeopardy attached when the Juvenile Court, as the trier of the facts, began to hear evidence. Pp. 421 U. S. 528-531.

(b) Contrary to petitioner's contention, respondent's trial in Superior Court for the same offense as that for which he had been tried in Juvenile Court, violated the policies of the Double Jeopardy Clause, even if respondent "never faced the risk of more than one punishment," since the Clause "is written in terms of potential or risk of trial and conviction, not punishment." Price v. Georgia, 398 U. S. 323, 398 U. S. 329. Respondent was subjected to the burden of two trials for the same offense; he was twice put to the task of marshaling his resources against those of the State, twice subjected to the "heavy personal strain" that such an experience represents. Pp. 421 U. S. 532-533.

(c) If there is to be an exception to the constitutional protection against a second trial in the context of the juvenile court system, it must be justified by interests of society, reflected in that unique institution, or of juveniles themselves, of sufficient substance to render tolerable the costs and burdens that the exception will entail in individual cases. Pp. 421 U. S. 533-534.

(d) Giving respondent the constitutional protection against multiple trials in this context will not, as petitioner claims, diminish the flexibility and informality of juvenile court proceedings

Page 421 U. S. 520

to the extent that those qualities relate uniquely to the goals of the juvenile court system. A requirement that transfer hearings be held prior to adjudicatory hearings does not alter the nature of the latter proceedings. More significantly, such a requirement need not affect the quality of decisionmaking at transfer hearings themselves. The burdens petitioner envisions would not pose a significant problem for the administration of the juvenile court system, and, quite apart from that consideration, transfer hearings prior to adjudication will aid the objectives of that system. Pp. 421 U. S. 535-541.

497 F.2d 1160, vacated and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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