421 U.S. 519 (1975), 73-1995, Breed v. Jones

Docket Nº:No. 73-1995
Citation:421 U.S. 519, 95 S.Ct. 1779, 44 L.Ed.2d 346
Party Name:Breed v. Jones
Case Date:May 27, 1975
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 519

421 U.S. 519 (1975)

95 S.Ct. 1779, 44 L.Ed.2d 346




No. 73-1995

United States Supreme Court

May 27, 1975

Argued February 25-26, 1975




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. 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. 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 [95 S.Ct. 1781] in terms of potential or risk of trial and conviction, not punishment." Price v. Georgia, 398 U.S. 323, 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. 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. 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 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. 535-541.

497 F.2d 1160, vacated and remanded.

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

BURGER, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to decide whether the prosecution of respondent as an adult, after Juvenile Court proceedings which resulted in a finding that respondent had violated a criminal statute and a subsequent finding that he was unfit for treatment as a juvenile, violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Page 521

On February 9, 1971, a petition was filed in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, Juvenile Court, alleging that respondent, then 17 years of age, was a person described by Cal.Welf. & Inst'ns Code § 602 (1966),1 in that, on or about February 8, while armed with a deadly weapon, he had committed acts which, if committed by an adult, would constitute the crime of robbery in violation of Cal.Penal Code § 211 (1970). The following day, a detention hearing was held, at the conclusion of which respondent was ordered detained pending a hearing on the petition.2

The jurisdictional or adjudicatory hearing was conducted on March 1, pursuant [95 S.Ct. 1782] to Cal.Welf. & Inst'ns Code § 701 (1966).3 After taking testimony from two

Page 522

prosecution witnesses and respondent, the Juvenile Court found that the allegations in the petition were true and that respondent was a person described by § 602, and it sustained the petition. The proceedings were continued for a dispositional hearing,4 pending which the court ordered that respondent remain detained.

Page 523

At a hearing conducted on March 15, the Juvenile Court indicated its intention to find respondent "not . . . amenable to the care, treatment and training program available through the facilities of the juvenile court" under Cal.Welf. & Inst'ns Code § 707 (Supp. 1967).5 Respondent's counsel orally [95 S.Ct. 1783] moved "to continue the

Page 524

matter on the ground of surprise," contending that respondent "was not informed that it was going to be a fitness hearing." The court continued the matter for one week, at which time, having considered the report of the probation officer assigned to the case and having heard her testimony, it declared respondent "unfit for treatment as a juvenile,"6 and ordered that he be prosecuted as an adult.7

Thereafter, respondent filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Juvenile Court, raising the same double jeopardy claim now presented. Upon the denial of that petition, respondent sought habeas corpus relief in the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District. Although it initially stayed the criminal prosecution pending against respondent, that court denied the petition. In re Gary J., 17 Cal.App.3d 704, 95 Cal.Rptr.

Page 525

185 (1971). The Supreme Court of California denied respondent's petition for hearing.

After a preliminary hearing, respondent was ordered held for trial in Superior Court, where an formation was subsequently filed accusing him of having committed robbery, in violation of Cal.Penal Code § 211 (1970), while armed with a deadly weapon, on or about February 8, 1971. Respondent entered a plea of not guilty, and he also pleaded that he had

already been placed once in jeopardy and convicted of the offense charged, by the judgment of the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles, Juvenile Court, rendered . . . on the 1st day of March, 1971.

App. 47. By stipulation, the case was submitted to the court on the transcript of the preliminary hearing. The court found respondent guilty of robbery in the first degree under Cal.Penal Code § 211a (1970) and ordered that he be committed to the California Youth Authority.8 No appeal was taken from the judgment of conviction.

On December 10, 1971, respondent, through his mother as guardian ad litem, filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. In his petition, he alleged that his transfer to adult court [95 S.Ct. 1784] pursuant to Cal.Welf. & Inst'ns Code § 707 and subsequent trial there

Page 526

"placed him in double jeopardy." App. 13. The District Court denied the petition, rejecting respondent's contention that jeopardy attached at his adjudicatory hearing. It concluded that the

distinctions between the preliminary procedures and hearings provided by California law for juveniles and a criminal trial are many and apparent and the effort of [respondent] to relate them is unconvincing,

and that,

even assuming jeopardy attached during the preliminary juvenile proceedings . . . , it is clear that no new jeopardy arose by the juvenile proceeding sending the case to the criminal court.

343 F.Supp. 690, 692 (1972).

The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that applying double jeopardy protection to juvenile proceedings would not "impede the juvenile courts in carrying out their basic goal of rehabilitating the erring youth," and that the contrary result might "do irreparable harm to or destroy their confidence in our judicial system." The court therefore held that the Double Jeopardy Clause "is fully applicable to juvenile court proceedings." 497 F.2d 1160, 1165 (CA9 1974).

Turning to the question whether there had been a constitutional violation in this case, the Court of Appeals pointed to the power of the Juvenile Court to "impose severe restrictions upon the juvenile's liberty," ibid., in support of its conclusion that jeopardy attached in respondent's adjudicatory hearing.9 It rejected petitioner's contention that no new jeopardy attached when respondent was referred to Superior Court and subsequently tried and convicted, finding "continuing jeopardy" principles

Page 527

advanced by petitioner inapplicable. Finally, the Court of Appeals observed that acceptance of petitioner's position would "allow the prosecution to review in advance the accused's defense and, as here, hear him testify about the crime charged," a procedure it found offensive to "our concepts of basic, even-handed fairness." The court therefore held that, once jeopardy attached at the adjudicatory hearing, a minor could not be retried as an adult or a juvenile "absent some exception to the double jeopardy prohibition," and that there "was none here." Id. at 1168.

We granted certiorari because of a conflict between Courts of Appeals and the highest courts of a number of States on the issue presented in this case and similar issues and because of the importance of final resolution of the issue to the administration of the juvenile court system.


The parties agree that, following his transfer from Juvenile Court, and as a defendant to a felony information, respondent was entitled to the full protection of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. See Benton v. Maryland, 395 U.S. 784 (1969). In addition, they agree that respondent was put in jeopardy by the proceedings on that...

To continue reading