Wake Forest Law Review
In Apprendi v. New Jersey, the Supreme Court ruled that any fact that increases the penalty for a crime “other than the fact of a prior conviction” must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Apprendi exempted the fact of a prior conviction from its holding because criminal defendants enjoyed a constitutional right to a jury trial at the time the state obtained that conviction which assured the accuracy and reliability of the prior record. By contrast, a plurality of the Supreme Court in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania denied juvenile delinquents a constitutional right to a jury trial and the vast majority of states do not provide juveniles with either a state constitutional or statutory right to a jury trial. The absence of a jury right detracts from the factual accuracy of delinquency convictions, adversely affects the quality of justice and delivery of legal services in juvenile courts, and raises significant questions about the propriety of using delinquency adjudications to enhance adult criminal sentences under the Apprendi exception for prior convictions. Since Apprendi, federal circuit and state appellate courts are divided on the use of delinquency convictions to enhance criminal sentences. While it is important to use delinquency convictions to enhance criminal sentences, justice and fairness require that courts only use convictions that satisfy Apprendi's procedural requirements. McKeiver long has been ripe for overruling on its own merits, and Apprendi provides additional impetus for the Supreme Court and states to grant juveniles a constitutional or statutory right to a jury trial so that criminal *1112 courts properly may use delinquency adjudications as a legitimate “fact of a prior conviction.”
Barry C. Feld, The Constitutional Tension between Apprendi and McKeiver: Sentence Enhancements Based on Delinquency Convictions and the Quality of Justice in Juvenile Courts, 38 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1111 (2003), available at https://scholarship.law.umn.edu/faculty_articles/284.